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CCS Releases New Tool: Military Responses to Climate Hazards Tracker

By Tom Ellison and Erin Sikorsky

As temperatures continue to rise and drive extreme weather events that draw in militaries worldwide, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) is launching a new effort to monitor military actions in response to climate hazards: the Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) Tracker. Militaries are increasingly called upon to assist with wildfires, flood response, and other extreme weather events exacerbated by climate change. According to our tracker, since summer 2022, militaries in dozens of countries have responded nearly one hundred times to such hazards.

Ongoing climate change and weather patterns will only increase this demand, starting this summer with the expected arrival of the El Niño climate pattern, which scientists warn will result in significant temperature increases. This tracking effort will help analytic efforts to identify the temporal and geographic patterns in military deployments to climate hazards, the effectiveness of such deployments, and their implications for geopolitics, governance, and civil-military relations.

The tracker will be updated monthly. In addition to our own research at CCS, we are also calling for public input to identify incidents of military deployments in response to climate hazards. To do so, you can enter data into this Google Form. You can also download the up-to-date dataset on the MiRCH landing page.

Caveats: This project began as an informal tracking effort. The data is not comprehensive and relies heavily on English language press, and government social media posts. While we do not have confirmed climate change attribution for every hazard listed, authoritative climate science products such as the IPCC report indicate that events such as heatwaves, wildfires, floods, storms, and droughts are statistically more likely or intense in a warming world. 

Please cite this project as The Center for Climate and Security’s Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) Tracker. 

Please direct media inquiries to Andrew Facini, CSR Communications Director

Water Weaponization: Its Forms, Its Use in the Russia-Ukraine War, and What to Do About It

By Marcus King and Emily Hardy


An image of the PDF cover page

Water has been associated with conflict and cooperation between states since the beginning of recorded history. In ancient Mesopotamia, a conflict over the Euphrates River between two Sumerian cities yielded the world’s first recorded treaty.1 However, water has just as often been weaponized during conflict—water weaponization being the exploitation of the human need for water, by deliberately rendering it scarce and/ or insecure. During World War Two, for example, the Royal Air Force Squadron 617—nicknamed the “American Dambusters”—conducted “Operation Chastise” to destroy three German-controlled dams in Germany’s industrial core.2 Two of the three targeted dams, Möhne and Eder, collapsed, significantly damaging hydroelectric infrastructure in the country. This is a classic case of water weaponization, and the practice has continued through to this day—all while climate change continues to place serious stress on water resources. This briefer will highlight the core elements of water weaponization, and then assess its practice in the Russia-Ukraine war to date.


CCS and IMCCS to Host Events on Food Security and the Clean Energy Transition at the Munich Security Conference

The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) and the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) in partnership with NATO look forward to hosting innovative conversations on key climate security issues, including food security and the clean energy transition, at the Munich Security Conference set to take place February 17-19, 2023. 

Food Security

Climate change is a strategically significant security risk that will affect our most basic resources, including food, with potentially dire security ramifications. National and international security communities, including militaries and intelligence agencies, understand these risks and are taking action to anticipate them. However, progress in mitigating these risks will require deeper collaboration among the climate change, agriculture and food security, and national security communities through targeted research, policy development, and community building. 

In order to address these challenges, CCS will host an interactive roundtable under the title “Feeding Climate Resilience: Mapping the Security Benefits of Agriculture and Climate Adaptation” with support from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation, featuring a high-level discussion aimed at identifying further areas of cooperation among these sectors and exploring possible areas for policy action.

The Clean Energy Transition

The Russian invasion of Ukraine and subsequent global energy crisis, coupled with the last few years of unprecedented extreme heat, droughts, and floods, have revealed a new, more complex security reality for NATO countries. Navigating this reality requires militaries to systematically recognize the opportunities and challenges that exist within the nexus between climate change and security, and the global clean energy transition. 

The deterioration in Euro-Atlantic security will lead to increases in Alliance military procurement as well as the intensity of training, exercising, and patrolling. Such investment decisions can maintain and enhance operational effectiveness and collective defense requirements by taking advantage of the innovative solutions offered by the green energy transition that are designed for future operating environments while contributing to individual countries’ UNFCCC Paris Agreement commitments. However, it is also important to identify and mitigate new dependencies created by a switch from Russian fossil fuels to a critical minerals supply chain currently dominated by China and to think holistically about interoperability and other factors of relevance to the Alliance.

A roundtable discussion titled “Cleaner and Meaner: The Military Energy Transition by Design” and hosted by IMCCS and NATO will identify key opportunities to speed NATO militaries’ transition to clean energy, as well as challenges/obstacles that require cooperation and strategic planning across the Alliance. The conversation will seek to identify next steps for NATO countries, including through technological innovation and partnerships with the private sector, and builds on conversations about the implementation of climate security planning hosted by IMCCS and NATO at the 2022 conference.

Follow us here and on social media for more coming out of this year’s conversations at MSC.

BRIEFER: The Forgotten Countries in the “Muddy Middle” of Climate Security Risk: A Case for Addressing the Gap

By Tom Ellison

Climate security analysis lends itself to focusing on the extremes among countries, whether the greenhouse gas trajectories of the highest emitting countries or the adaptation challenges in the most exposed. This is evident in the (understandable) focus on the ten or 20 most climate vulnerable countries, where climate-related security impacts are most clear. However, with climate impacts set to worsen for decades even in a best-case emissions scenario, climate-related security challenges will continue to intensify in countries that are not considered the most vulnerable today–those in the “muddy middle” of climate vulnerability rankings. These countries get less attention because they are not top-5 emitters, great power rivals, or conflict-ridden crisis areas, but they are places where climate risks are less certain and where increased instability could be globally consequential.

This pitfall can be seen in the wide use of climate vulnerability indices by governments, civil society, journalists, and the private sector to measure countries’ vulnerability to climate change. Such indices have their place, but they can obscure aspects of climate security risks in countries with mixed or unremarkable scores.

This Briefer explores the limits of such rankings, examines the various climate-security risks of those countries in the “muddy middle,” and suggests analytical framing that can help reinforce the visibility of those risks faced in such countries:

Questions for country analysts to consider might include: How will climate change and the energy transition lift or depress the value of economic assets important to this country’s political forces? How might climate extremes align with existing social divisions, misinformation narratives, or cultural flashpoints, amplifying the impact of both? How could climate change or policies spur destabilizing grievances, by violating local expectations of governance, regardless of the level of absolute deprivation?

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