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Three Climate Issues to Watch in Defense Bills this Fall

by John Conger

For many years, a bipartisan consensus has been built in Washington around the risks that climate change poses to U.S. national security priorities. Congress has passed pragmatic legislation to assess the vulnerability of military infrastructure and forces; to expand U.S. military authorities and capabilities for resilience; and to increase emphasis on the melting Arctic and new tensions between the United States and both Russia and China.  

This year, however, climate issues have been drawn into tense and partisan political debates, which at the time of this publication, look like they will lead to a government shutdown. As the overarching government funding issues take center stage, here are three climate issues to keep an eye on as Congress moves defense legislation this Fall.


CCS Welcomes 2023-2024 Class of the Climate and Security Fellowship

By Brigitte Hugh

The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) is pleased to announce the 2023-2024 class of the Climate and Security Fellowship. 

Extreme weather, food and energy crises, and global competition over clean energy are increasingly underscoring the security implications of climate change, prompting a recognition among U.S. policymakers that climate change must be at the center of U.S. national security and foreign policy. To meet this goal, there is a need for increased integration and capacity in  the U.S. security and climate workforces. The Climate Security Fellowship creates a space for mid-career professionals to explore the impact of climate on security and security on climate while building a network of professionals working at this nexus. 

The 2023-2024 class of 12 fellows comes from a diverse set of backgrounds and expertise critical to advancing a whole of society response to climate security risks. During their term, they will have opportunities to engage with expert speakers, discuss a syllabus of key climate security topics, and build relationships with the CCS network and one another. The CCS team looks forward to collaborating with them over the next nine months. 


August 2023 Update: Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) Tracker 

By Tom Ellison, Erin Sikorsky, and Michael Zarfos

In August 2023, the Military Responses to Climate Hazards (MiRCH) tracker identified 19 countries in which militaries were deployed in response to climate hazards, often multiple times to different regions and types of hazard. The tracker identified 35 incidents total. 

In the United States, the devastating wildfire in Maui resulted in one of the largest military deployments in response to a single hazard in recent years, which the military has sustained for more than a month. The disaster was the most lethal U.S. wildfire in a century, exceeding the annual deaths from terrorism in the United States in any year since 9/11. The fires prompted the creation of a U.S. Department of Defense task force to coordinate contributions from all U.S. armed forces branches and the National Guard, which have totaled nearly 600 personnel. In support of FEMA, the task force has provided relief services including water and fuel distribution, search and recovery, air and sea transportation, mortuary and forensic services, and facility usage. 

The crisis has attracted disinformation as well, such as a false claim that the military had arrested the head of FEMA in the wake of the disaster, Chinese government disinformation that the fires were caused by a U.S. “weather weapon,” and Russian claims that U.S. aid to Ukraine had undermined wildfire response.

The Maui wildfire underscored the fact that militaries are responding to hazards that reflect not only climate change, but broader ecological disruption as well. The fires were likely more destructive because of invasive species (an example of a biotic eruption) and insufficient environmental management. Grasses intentionally introduced in the late 1700s likely contributed to the fires through the buildup of flammable biomass in abandoned post-agricultural lands, which also spread into populated communities. There were many warnings about the risks posed by these invasive grasses prior to the fire, but lack of regulation, resources and urgency confounded efforts to reduce the grasses’ density and to exclude them from populated areas. Further, on Maui, decades of water diversion from streams supporting agriculture and development contributed to a drying of the land, increasing fire risk.

Meanwhile, responses to severe climate hazards prompted thorny political questions. In Canada, the Canadian Armed Forces (CAF) continued to assist firefighting and evacuations in British Columbia and the Northwest Territories. The summer’s extreme weather prompted one retired Canadian military leader to call for a new national emergency response agency to minimize the burden on the CAF. In China in early August, thousands of People’s Liberation Army and People’s Armed Police personnel conducted evacuations during flooding from the landfall of Typhoon Doksuri, and a decision to divert flood waters to parts of Hebei Province to protect Beijing prompted anger at the government. (For more on the dynamics in China, see our analysis here).

Elsewhere, climate-driven hazards led neighbors to help neighbors, both in the United States and internationally. A wildfire in Louisiana drew in National Guard troops from as far away as Minnesota, while the EU Civil Protection Mechanism was activated for the second time this summer in Greece in response to wildfires. Many countries that deploy in support of the mechanism do so via their militaries, especially smaller countries like Croatia. According to the European Commission, the August fires in Greece were the largest fires ever seen in the EU.

We’re Hiring: Research Fellows, Center for Climate and Security

The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) seeks to hire two team members for its Center for Climate and Security: Research Fellow (Nexus25 Project) and Research Fellow (General).

Research Fellow (Nexus25 Project)

The person filling this role will primarily support CCS collaboration with Nexus25 project partners ( This is an effort to move forward an agenda for the renewal of multilateralism in the face of the multidimensional and transnational challenges of our times intertwining climate change, food security, and human mobility. These issues are analyzed and discussed from a transatlantic perspective with key partners in emerging countries in Africa and South Asia with the goal of a strategic reorientation of multilateral partnerships within a global context. 

The Research Fellow will work closely with Nexus25 personnel in Europe and the United States. 

Duties will include: 

  • Conducting relevant research and analysis related to the project as appropriate;
  • Contributing to the production of written and audiovisual outputs of the project;
  • Helping facilitate coordination among Nexus25 partners, the Istituto Affari Internazionale (IAI) and the Center for Climate and Security;
  • Tracking developments and contacts with the relevant stakeholders from multilateral bodies and fora, such as the UN, World Bank, IMF, G7, G20;
  • Helping identify potential Nexus25 partners with specific thematic or regional expertise;
  • Providing logistic and organizing support for high-level events in Washington DC and in Europe;
  • Helping advance CSR’s diversity and inclusivity goals;
  • Taking on other related responsibilities that may be requested from time to time.

The ideal candidate will have:

  • A master’s degree in a relevant field or equivalent work experience
  • Familiarity with transnational challenges and trends, such as food security, climate change, human mobility and security and/or familiarity with multilateral institutions including the EU
  • A passion for addressing food security and climate security risks and knowledge in this field
  • Strong writing, communication, and interpersonal skills
  • A desire to work in multidisciplinary, silo-busting environments
  • Comfort with a largely remote work environment
  • A demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Location in Washington, DC, with a willingness to travel 

To apply to this position, please use the button below. CSR will evaluate applications on a rolling basis until the application deadline of September 8.

Research Fellow (General), Center for Climate and Security

This is an entry-level position focused on addressing climate security risks and solutions. The person in this role will work closely with the CCS Director and Deputy Director and other members of the CCS team. 

The person filling this role will:

  • Support the management and implementation of a range of CCS projects, including those related to the intersection of climate change, food security, conflict, humanitarian response, and stability. This support will include duties such as:
    • Assist with substantive research and analytic writing such as blog posts, briefers and reports related to the projects
    • Assist in conceptualizing, organizing and implementing public and private events, including multi-day workshops and U.S. and/or international trips
    • Help manage communications and outreach to key project stakeholders and policy contacts
    • Track policy trends relevant to the projects; for example by monitoring specific legislation and Executive Branch budget trends and policies
  • Provide general administrative support, for example assisting in scheduling meetings and events
  • Help to advance CSR’s diversity and inclusion goals
  • Take on other responsibilities that may be requested from time to time

The ideal candidate will have:

  • A college degree in a relevant field 
  • Familiarity with international security issues and trends 
  • A passion for advancing climate security policy and knowledge in this field
  • Strong writing, communication, and interpersonal skills (foreign language or data analysis skills a plus, but not required)
  • Strong project management skills or enthusiasm for developing them
  • A desire to work in multidisciplinary, silo-busting environments
  • Comfort with a largely remote work environment
  • Demonstrated commitment to diversity and inclusion
  • Location in Washington, DC is strongly desired

To apply to this position, please use the button below. CSR will evaluate applications on a rolling basis until the application deadline of September 8.

For both positions:

CSR seeks candidates with the vision and potential needed to become a true leader in national and international security. 

CSR has a highly flexible work environment. Outside of specific meetings and events, remote working is our norm. CSR will help the right candidate develop or expand skills required for success in this position and expects there will be opportunities for future growth.  CSR’s pay band for candidates hired at the Research Fellow level will be $70,000-$78,000, based on the qualifications and experience levels of the applicants. CSR’s current benefits include health insurance with employer coverage of 70% of premium costs and a range of plan options; a 403(b) retirement plan for which CSR matches employee contributions dollar for dollar up to 6% of their salary, with no vesting delay; and 21 full days of leave and 3 sick days, in addition to observing all U.S. federal holidays. 

Applications for both positions are due September 8. 

CSR is an equal opportunity employer. We will not discriminate and will take affirmative action measures to ensure against discrimination in employment, recruitment, advertisements for employment, compensation, termination, upgrading, promotions, and other conditions of employment against any employee or job applicant on the bases of race, color, sex, pregnancy, national origin, age, religion, creed, disability, veteran’s status, sexual orientation, gender identity or gender expression, political affiliation, matriculation status, genetic disposition or carrier status, or any other category protected under applicable federal, state or local law.

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