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A Climate Security Plan for America Part 4: Prepare for and Prevent Climate Impacts

By John Conger

See Part 1, “Demonstrate Leadership,” here, Part 2, “Assess Climate Risks,” here, and Part 3, “Support Allies and Partners,” here.

As the Biden Administration rolls out its first budget request, we revisit the fourth and final pillar of the Climate Security Plan for America, Prepare for and Prevent Climate Impacts.  In many ways, the policy recommendations in the earlier pillars build to the investments, and the policies that shape investments, that are called for in this section of the report. 

In other words, once the Administration has demonstrated leadership by prioritizing climate security as a core element of national security, and it has assessed risks throughout the enterprise to understand what they’re up against, and finally incorporated a global perspective that reflects the principle that climate impacts abroad affect the United States, then what must be done to prepare?

Under the heading of preparing for and preventing the impacts of climate change, the Climate Security Plan for America (CSPA) summarized the challenge this way:

“Facing this future, the U.S. must incorporate climate change considerations into its military requirements, build long-term resiliency into its infrastructure, prioritize climate change threat reduction across the U.S. government, be prepared for global changes where there is no excuse for being surprised, and reduce emissions to prevent catastrophic security consequences.”

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A Climate Security Plan for America Part 3: Support Allies and Partners

By Erin Sikorsky

Part 3 of 4 in the Climate Security Plan for America blog series

See part 1, “Demonstrate Leadership,” here and part 2, “Assess Climate Risks,” here

As the Presidentially-mandated deadline approaches for US foreign policy agencies to integrate climate change into their regional and country strategies, it is a perfect moment to examine the recommendations in part 3 of our Climate Security Plan for America: Supporting Allies and Partners. The Executive Order on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad tasked all agencies that “engage in extensive international work” to develop within 90 days “strategies and implementation plans for integrating climate considerations into their international work.” The EO was signed on 27 January, so the due date for the plans is April 27, just a few days after the US-led Earth Day Leaders Summit on climate change. 

Why is supporting U.S. allies and partners in building resilience to climate security threats so important? As the pandemic has shown, when it comes to transnational, actorless threats, we’re all in this together. Climate change vulnerabilities in other states can affect US national security directly or indirectly — whether by straining the governments of key allies and partners, creating openings for violent non-state actors to gain traction, or contributing to drivers of conflict and instability. Even developed countries are likely to need more assistance in developing resilience strategies in the coming years, as communities barely have time to recover from one shock when the next one hits. For example, just last week Australia saw record-breaking floods hit areas still recovering from last year’s record-breaking wildfires.

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A Climate Security Plan for America Part 2: Assess Climate Risks

By Erin Sikorsky

Part 2 of 4 in the Climate Security Plan for America blog series

See part 1, “Demonstrate Leadership,” here.

If the first pillar of the Climate Security Plan for America is all about leadership, the second pillar is about ensuring those leaders have the information they need to take decisive, effective action. In this section of the plan, we note that though climate change poses unprecedented risks, we’re also in a moment of unprecedented foresight – a combination that gives us a Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent. Advanced climate modeling allows us to project the implications of a range of emissions levels on risks such as sea level rise, rainfall variability, wildfires, impacts on biodiversity and marine and terrestrial ecosystems and functions, and new disease ranges. 

Foresight does not automatically translate to action, however. In order to leverage these models for national security insights, the U.S. government must have the personnel, programs, and systems in place to conduct robust and actionable assessments of climate risks. Our plan calls on the administration to “take advantage of unprecedented foresight about climate change.” President Biden’s new Executive Order (EO), Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad, takes important steps in this direction–his actions and our recommendations for what should come next are below: 

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A Climate Security Plan for America Part 1: Demonstrate Leadership

By John Conger

Part 1 of 4 in the Climate Security Plan for America Blog Series

In late 2019, the Center for Climate and Security-led Climate Security Advisory Group, a group of senior U.S. national security and military experts, including eight retired four-star generals and admirals, published the A Climate Security Plan for America.  These leaders outlined a comprehensive plan to elevate climate change as a security priority and offered recommendations in four broad categories.  This blog discusses the first, Demonstrating Leadership.

As we stated in the report, we believed that in order to successfully counter climate security challenges, it must be an articulated priority of the U.S. President.  Check.  President-elect Biden has repeated often that he seeks to make climate change “a core national security priority.”  He named former Secretary Kerry as his “climate envoy” with a seat on the National Security Council.  For his own part, Secretary Kerry’s initial comments on his new role have focused on the security threat posed by climate change. 

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