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Climate Security Fellows Report 2021

By Esther Sperling

These are unprecedented times. The world continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, while democracies and economies around the globe are tested. Through it all, climate change is destabilizing natural and social systems, and driving new security risks. It has never been more important to engage the next generation of leaders on addressing these systemic risks.

The Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG), a project of the Center for Climate and Security, founded the Climate and Security Fellowship to do just that. The 2019-2020 Climate and Security Fellows are a distinguished group of professionals, all with one thing in common: a desire to address the security threats of climate change. They are emerging leaders in their respective fields of study and bring the necessary diversity of perspectives and backgrounds to address such wicked problems.

A self-selected group of Fellows wrote briefers on emerging climate security vulnerabilities. Each chose a topic that they felt was underrepresented in the current literature and deserved further examination. Our hope is that these briefers will spark a broader conversation on these vital security concerns.

I want to thank the Climate and Security Advisory Group for their support and thank all of the climate and security experts who briefed this cadre of fellows including: Hon. Sharon Burke, Hon. John Conger, Col. Mike Gremillion, USAF, Hon. Sherri Goodman, Dr. Rod Schoonover, and Joan VanDervort. Congratulations to the 2019-2020 class of Fellows. We look forward to watching their careers progress, and to their guidance of the next generation of leaders!

Esther Sperling, Co-Founder and Program Director, CSAG Climate and Security Fellowship Program

Read the report here.

The opinions expressed in this report are of the authors and do not reflect the positions of the affiliated organizations.

Why I’ve Joined the Council on Strategic Risks as Head of its Ecological Security Program

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By Dr. Rod Schoonover

We are in the midst of an ecological crisis. Biodiversity loss is quickening, ecosystems are collapsing, mass die-offs are rising, zoonotic spillovers are escalating, and populations of harmful organisms are booming. In a January 2021 article titled Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future, 17 of the world’s leading ecologists argued “the scale of the threats to the biosphere and all of its lifeforms—including humanity—is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.”

Both connected to—and separate from—the climate emergency, ongoing ecological disruption has portentous implications for human, national, and global security. We should expect concomitant risks to political stability, social cohesion, human health, and economic stability.

Surprisingly sparse comprehensive analysis exists in this nascent field of ecological security, however.

That’s why I’m pleased to join the Council on Strategic Risks as head of the Ecological Security Program in the Converging Risks Lab.

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BRIEF REPORT: North Korea, Climate Change and Security

By Catherine Dill, Alexandra Naegele, Natalie Baillargeon, Monica Caparas, Dominick Dusseau, Madeleine Holland, and Christopher Schwalm

North Korea’s provocative posture and its nuclear arsenal have shielded it from much of the pressures of globalization and integration with the international community. But neither politics nor arms can defend it from climate change. Impending climate impacts threaten to exacerbate North Korea’s already precarious ability to provide public goods for its population and thus maintain regime stability, multiplying risk factors for the Korean peninsula and the entire region.

Our new report “Converging Crises in North Korea: Security, Stability and Climate Change,” accompanied by a visual storymap, projects climate impacts on crop yields by 2040, inland flooding by 2050, and sea levels by 2050. Projections reveal rice and maize yield failures will become more likely along the Western coastlines by 2030. The country will experience significant intensification of extreme rainfall and increased flooding, with coastal areas increasingly at risk from sea level rise and inland areas – including sensitive nuclear sites – at risk of inundation if not properly protected.

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EVENT: Climate Security at the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

This is a cross-post from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine

Join us for a conversation about the connections between climate change and security.

About this Event

Climate change is impacting and exacerbating risks to security at home and abroad. Lisa Friedman (The New York Times) will moderate a conversation with Erin Sikorsky (The Center for Climate and Security) and Swathi Veeravalli (U.S. Africa Command) about how different parts of the security community are thinking about climate risks, what implications these risks hold for policy and planning, and where there are capacity gaps or aspects of climate security that need more research.

The conversation will be webcast on this webpage on Thursday, July 15, 2021 from 3-4 pm ET. Closed captioning will be provided.

Climate Conversations: Pathways to Action is a monthly webinar series from the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine that aims to convene high-level, cross-cutting, nonpartisan conversations about issues relevant to national policy action on climate change.

Participant Bios

Erin Sikorsky is the Deputy Director of the Center for Climate and Security, and the Director of the International Military Council on Climate and Security. Previously, she served as the Deputy Director of the Strategic Futures Group on the National Intelligence Council in the U.S., where she co-authored the quadrennial Global Trends report and led the U.S. intelligence community’s environmental and climate security analysis. She is also the founding chair of the Climate Security Advisory Council, a Congressionally mandated group designed to facilitate coordination between the intelligence community and U.S. government scientific agencies.

Swathi Veeravalli is a Foreign Affairs Specialist at United States Africa Command. Her background is in interdisciplinary research science with expertise in developing capabilities to assess how compound climate-fragility risks threaten both U.S. and global security.

Lisa Friedman is a reporter on the New York Times climate desk, focusing on climate and environmental policy in Washington D.C. She has covered nine international climate talks and chased climate-related stories from the bottom of a Chinese coal mine to the top of snow-capped Himalaya Mountains.

Contact

Alex Reich

areich@nas.edu

RESPONSIBLE STAFF OFFICERS

  • Alex Reich  
  • Amanda Purcell  

ADDITIONAL PROJECT STAFF

  • Holly Rhodes  
  • Rob Greenway  
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