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BRIEFER: The Security Implications of the Pakistan Floods

By Andrea Rezzonico and Erin Sikorsky
Edited by Francesco Femia

The tragedy unfolding in Pakistan in the wake of unprecedented flooding late last month, which has inundated a third of the country and displaced millions of people, is not only a humanitarian catastrophe but also poses significant security threats. Already before the floods, South Asia experienced record breaking heat waves in April and May, leading to unbearable living conditions, widespread energy blackouts, and rapid glacial melt. These climate hazards will compound existing challenges in the country, including political instability, Islamic extremism, and nuclear security.

Given these dynamics, efforts to address the immediate humanitarian crisis as well as develop longer-term climate adaptation and resilience measures are not just the right thing for Western countries to do—such investments will also provide security benefits as they contribute to a more stable Pakistan in the future. In particular, the United States must live up to its climate finance commitments, and better integrate climate considerations into the range of engagements it has with Pakistan, including ongoing military training and support.

CSR Board Member Dr. Marcus King Takes New Position at Georgetown University

By Elsa Barron

Vice Chair of the Board at the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), Dr. Marcus King, has taken a new position at Georgetown University, where he is now a Professor of the Practice in Environment and International Affairs at its Walsh School of Foreign Service and Earth Commons Institute. Formerly, he was the John O. Rankin Associate Professor of International Affairs and Director of the International Affairs Program at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. 

At CSR, Dr. King also serves as an Advisory Board Member at the Center for Climate and Security (CCS). During his tenure at George Washington University, Dr. King coordinated the Elliot School’s co-sponsorship of the Climate and Security Working Group (CSWG) and the Climate and Security Advisory Group CSAG) alongside CCS. CSWG is Washington’s community of practice on climate and security issues. Following Dr. King’s transition, the CSWG and CSAG will also be moving into a partnership with Georgetown’s Science, Technology and International Affairs program. 

I spoke with Dr. King to learn more about his career transition in addition to new opportunities arising within the climate and security field. 

Elsa Barron: What are you looking forward to in your new interdisciplinary role at Georgetown University’s School of Foreign Service (SFS) and Institute for Environment & Sustainability?

Dr. Marcus King: First, I would mention that I am a graduate of SFS so I am especially excited to return and contribute to the development of my alma mater’s curriculum. 

The accelerating pace of technological and scientific innovation has created new challenges related to environmental sustainability, cybersecurity, the amplified reach of radical ideologies, and modern warfare to name a few. I am looking forward to the opportunity to build upon the existing major in Science, Technology and International Affairs to develop new environmental security courses that address these challenges. New courses will bridge the gap between STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering and Math) and international relations. These connections often already exist in the real world but are rarely seen in higher educational settings. It is notable that International Relations (IR) is itself an interdisciplinary endeavor composed of history, economics, political science and other fields. Combining IR with STEM will provide students with a full toolkit to face emerging and complex ecological security problems such as the climate crisis.  

Barron: What opportunities does the Georgetown Earth Commons provide for new thinking on topics like climate and ecological security?

Dr. King: There are so many opportunities. There are two initiatives I am particularly excited about that apply the Earth Common’s (ECo’s) vision. The first is the development of new degree programs. The Earth Commons along with the McDonough School of Business and the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences created a Masters of Science Degree in Environment and Sustainability Management, with the first cohort of students just arriving on campus this fall. The degree reflects the understanding that science and business principles are both critical to achieving sustainability goals across the globe. In my new position, I will be instrumental in the development of joint degree programs between Earth Commons and the SFS.  

Another exciting program is ECo’s unique Post-baccalaureate Fellows program. This program harnesses the burgeoning talents of a select group of Georgetown’s newest alumni. They have the opportunity to research and to work in cooperation with faculty to implement environmental and sustainability projects on campus and in our local and global communities. You can think of it as sort of a gap year experience. Fellowships have already been awarded for the 2022-2023 academic year.

Barron: As you depart from your role with George Washington University, what strikes you as some of the department’s greatest accomplishments under your leadership as director of the International Affairs M.A. (MAIA) Program?

Dr. King: The MAIA Program enrolls about 275 students across 17 concentrations. I am particularly proud of two that were created during my watch. The first was the concentration in Global Gender Policy. The concentration equips future international affairs professionals with the knowledge and skills to apply a gender lens to their work and advance gender equality in all areas of their professional careers.  

The second is a concentration in Global Energy and Environmental Policy. This concentration includes classes that provide subject matter expertise along with proficiency in research methods and data analytics. This program was responsive to the demand signal from employers who were interested in hiring analysts or other professionals who had a built-in capacity to evaluate energy and environmental issues as they “hit the ground.” We also developed recruitment strategies that tripled the number of new Elliott School students hailing from underrepresented communities. 

Barron: You were recently invited to attend Vice President Kamala Harris’s release of the White House Action Plan on Global Water Security. What was the significance of this strategy in building on your past work and guiding your future pursuits? In your new position, how will you continue to build bridges between academic and government institutions? 

Dr. King: Achieving the goal of water security demands a “whole of society” approach. The White House Action Plan for Global Water Security was the culmination of the efforts of dedicated activists and policymakers from across sectors and the political spectrum (including academia) that have supported action on this issue for many years. Along with CCS, I have been engaged in convening a parallel and complementary process on the wider issue of climate security through the Climate and Security Working Group. Over the years, we have created a community of practice that can set agendas, testify before Congress and provide policy recommendations. As the oldest school of international relations, Georgetown has a long history of engaging and training policy practitioners. The Earth Commons provides additional support and innovative approaches to build on the conversation between academia and the U.S. government. 

My own research seeks to understand how water insecurity in fragile states contributes to violence and political instability including in areas that are of national security concern to the U.S., which is something I explore in-depth in my latest book, Water and Conflict in the Middle East. I believe that water scarcity is one of the most immediate and visceral consequences of climate change, and I hope that my research will not only inform the scholarly debate but can also inform policymakers’ decisions to address this challenge.         

We at CSR congratulate Dr. King on his new position and look forward to continuing our work together in the years to come.

Read, Watch, Listen: CCS Across the Web | August 2022

By Brigitte Hugh

Welcome to “Read, Watch, Listen” from the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), a monthly round-up highlighting some of the articles, interviews, and podcasts featuring the CCS network of experts.  

A hot August around the world had CCS experts discussing the security implications of heatwaves, the opening Arctic, and the energy transition. 


  • Elsa Barron, CCS Research Fellow, writes that the heatwaves across the northern hemisphere this summer show climate change is not a future crisis, but a crisis of today. She further notes that the Balkans is one of the most vulnerable regions in Europe to the security risks which arise in a climate-changed world. (Geopolitical Monitor)
  • Nonresident Research Fellow Cullen Hendrix joins Morgan Bazilian of the Payne Institute for Public Policy at the Colorado School of Mines, to examine how the war in Ukraine is driving changes toward sustainable energy security and what a good transition will need to include. (War on the Rocks)


  • As the Arctic warms and becomes an area of increased international attention, the addition of Finland and Sweden to NATO offers the Alliance an important strategic foothold, comments Senior Strategist Sherri Goodman. (AP News
  • Bob Barnes, Senior Policy Advisor, participated in a panel event at the American Security Project focused on energy security in West Virginia, wherein he noted that some former mine lands in West Virginia could be used for solar power arrays. (Herald-Dispatch)
  • A definition of Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent (R2P2), written by Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell (CCS Co-founders), was published in The Palgrave Encyclopedia of Urban and Regional Futures
  • The confluence of poor governance by the Taliban and disruptions to subsistence agriculture will likely result in an increased number of internally displaced people in Afghanistan, warned CCS Director Erin Sikorsky. (Thomson Reuters Foundation)

BRIEFER: Papua New Guinea, Climate and Security

In April 2022, the U.S. State Department released a Prologue to the 2020 United States Strategy to Prevent Conflict and Promote Stability, part of the Global Fragility Act of 2019. The prologue selected four countries and one region—including Papua New Guinea—as a geographic focus in developing a blueprint for promoting global peace and security.

Papua New Guinea (PNG) is at a pivotal moment in its development. Opportunities to modernize are clashing with traditional tribal strictures; foreign commercial and political actors are vying for favor and resources; and global geopolitical competition is buffeting regional relationships. Exacerbating all of these challenges is climate change. 

This briefer by the Center for Climate and Security focuses on key PNG security risks, and the role of climate change in shaping security outcomes in the country. It highlights both risks and opportunities, and offers policymakers targeted recommendations to prevent instability and conflict in a complex, climate-stressed environment.  

About the author

Rachel Fleishman is Nonresident Senior Research Fellow for the Asia-Pacific at the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks.

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