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BRIEFER: Climate Change as a “Threat Multiplier”: History, Uses and Future of the Concept
By Sherri Goodman and Pauline Baudu
Edited by Erin Sikorsky and Francesco Femia
“Threat multiplier” has become a widely used term by scholars and practitioners to describe climate change implications for security in both the policy realm and climate-security literature. The term was coined in 2007 by the CNA (Center for Naval Analyses) Military Advisory Board under the leadership of Sherri Goodman. It captures how climate change effects interact with and have the potential to exacerbate pre-existing threats and other drivers of instability to contribute to security risks. The concept has been characterized as “definitional” in having “set a baseline for how to talk about the issue” and having shaped “the way in which people studying climate policy think about risks.” Its use has also been described as “one of the most prominent ways in which the security implications of climate change have been understood.”
This briefer provides an account of the history of the “threat multiplier” term from its creation in the context of the environmental security era in 2007 to its progressive adoption by military, policy, and academic circles in the United States and abroad. It then examines the different conceptual ramifications that have derived from the term and its evolutions in capturing changing climate security realities.(more…)
Climate Security and the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act
By John Conger
President Biden signed the Fiscal Year 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) on December 23, 2022, a $858 billion measure setting defense policy and authorizing spending for next year. While the bill includes thousands of provisions addressing issues across the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD), its biggest impact on climate security this year is its broad support of the efforts the DoD proposed in its budget request.
In recent years, Congress has used this must-pass legislation to highlight and respond to climate threats to national security. Past NDAAs have directed DoD to deliver strategies and plans addressing climate-related issues such as the opening Arctic or resilience to extreme weather, and have provided a wide range of new authorities to DoD to support resilience efforts. Until now, however, the bill has given less attention to the funding authorization needed to turn the plans into action.(more…)
Event Summary: Understanding the Army, Navy, and Air Force Climate Strategies
By Pauline Baudu
On November 3, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) hosted a public discussion moderated by Hon. John Conger, Director Emeritus of CCS and Senior Advisor at the Council on Strategic Risks, on “Understanding the Army, Navy, and Air Force Climate Strategies.”
The event featured Hon. Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist at CCS and Chair of the Board of the Council on Strategic Risks; Ed Oshiba, Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force (Energy, Installations and Environment); Paul Farnan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army (Installations, Energy and Environment); Jim Balocki, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment) and Rachel Ross, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Panelists discussed the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force climate plans released earlier this year, an important step towards integrating climate security planning across DoD and adding substance to existing national strategic efforts, as noted by Mr. Conger.(more…)
BRIEFER: Climate Change a “Top Tier Threat” in the 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy
By Sherri Goodman, Holly Kaufman, and Pauline Baudu
The Biden Administration’s new National Security Strategy (NSS), released in October 2022, elevates attention and focus on climate security beyond any prior NSS. The security risks of climate change get the attention in the NSS they have long deserved. Climate change is in fact framed as a top-tier threat on a par with geopolitical challenges from U.S. adversaries and competitors.
The NSS states:
“Of all of the shared problems we face, climate change is the greatest and potentially [most] existential for all nations. Without immediate global action during this crucial decade, global temperatures will cross the critical warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius after which scientists have warned some of the most catastrophic climate impacts will be irreversible.”
The world is already experiencing deadly and life-altering climate-related catastrophes (e.g, flooding in Pakistan, fires and drought in California, hurricanes in Florida) when the Earth’s global average land and ocean surface temperature has risen at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since the mid-1800s (approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit). This NSS recognizes the unprecedented risks posed by such disasters. It therefore includes climate risks and related solutions in every aspect of national security and foreign policy, from reduction of carbon pollution to building resilience at home and abroad, and threading climate risks into every regional strategy. In this regard, the new NSS includes many of the recommendations in our Briefer of June 2021,“Climate Change in the U.S. National Security Strategy: History and Recommendations.”
The most recent NSS addresses our five key recommendations as well emerging concerns due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. These are 1) include all sectors, not just energy, including sources and sinks; 2) expand the concept of climate security to ecological security; 3) increase environmental monitoring; 4) forecast and plan for unpredictability; 5) assert strong U.S. leadership on climate and inter-related global ecological concerns, including passing aggressive climate and environmental restoration legislation and appropriating sufficient funding.
This briefer by the Center for Climate and Security focuses on these five recommendations and the relevant provisions within the NSS, concluding that the NSS both succeeds in recognizing the interdependence of all natural systems and resources, but also embodies several contradictions which should be improved. However, “the theme of the 2022 NSS is spot on: ‘No country should withhold progress on existential transnational issues like the climate crisis because of bilateral differences.'”