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U.S. Foreign Assistance Programs Fall Short of Addressing Climate Change Risk

The crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) loads boxes of food and water donated by USAID during humanitarian aid missions to Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements

By Dr. Marc Kodack

The Department of Defense has been incorporating climate change into its strategic policy documents for more than 10 years (e.g., herehere, and here). Despite White House pressure to the contrary, it currently is expanding how it addresses climate change to address Congressional requirements contained in recent National Defense Authorization Acts (here). Less visible, but no less important are other federal agencies that are focused on foreign assistance which could complement DoD’s security cooperation/assistance efforts (here). The Congressional Research Service (2020) released a short report on four foreign assistance agencies–U.S. Agency for International Development(USAID), the Peace Corps, the Millennium Challenge Corporation (MCC) and the U.S. International Development Finance Corporation(DFC)–and if their current planning efforts are reducing climate change risk to their own operations and programs. The result is that these current planning efforts fall far short of comprehensively addressing climate change risk, especially when compared to the more robust efforts under the last administration.

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The New Water Development Report and Implications for Security

WWDR 2020 CoverBy Dr. Marc Kodack

Climate change has and will continue to have both direct and indirect effects around the world. Changes in water will be one of the most visible direct effects, whether it is too little water, such as during prolonged droughts; too much, such as flooding caused by sea-level rise or tropical storms; or misaligned timing, such as when seasonal rains are early or late. Across numerous societies, the climate change-water interaction will be disruptive, but through mitigation and adaptation actions, this interaction can at least be ameliorated. However, these disruptions will also have significant security implications locally, regionally, and globally depending on their intensity, spatial extent, and longevity, and due to their disproportionate effects on different segments of societies. This deteriorating security environment is very likely to increase the vulnerability of affected populations, enhance inequities, and interfere with mitigation and adaptation actions, which will prolong instability. Thus, any security analysis must integrate the effects of climate change on water, and its attendant effects on the vulnerability of populations, to capture a true picture of the security environment. Resources like the newly-released World Water Development Report (WWDR), titled “Water and Climate Change,” should therefore be taken very seriously by the security community.

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In 2020, the Commander-in-Chief Will Have a “Responsibility to Prepare” for the Security Risks of Climate Change

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Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)

In an article published today in War on the Rocks, the Center for Climate and Security’s Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and John Conger outline a “Responsibility to Prepare Strategy” for whomever is President in 2020, which includes a “Climate Security Plan” and a “Just Add Climate” approach to  traditional national security priorities. The article is a preview of a forthcoming set of recommendations by the Center’s “Climate and Security Advisory Group,” which will build on policy recommendations from 2016 and 2018. From the article: (more…)

Climate Security Prominent in the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review

The crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) loads boxes of food and water donated by USAID during humanitarian aid missions to Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer's Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements

The crew of USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) loads boxes of food and water donated by USAID during humanitarian aid missions to Aceh, Sumatra, Indonesia. U.S. Navy photo by Photographer’s Mate 3rd Class Tyler J. Clements

This afternoon the State Department released the Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review, (QDDR), a document outlining the strengths and gaps in our diplomacy and development efforts. The QDDR lists four strategic priorities. “Mitigating and adapting to climate change” is one of these priorities, along with “preventing and mitigating conflict and violent extremism,” “promoting resilient, open, democratic societies,” and “advancing inclusive economic growth.” As Secretary Kerry noted in the launch of the QDDR: “Each of these priorities is related to the need to provide better governance across the globe. They are all linked. “ (more…)

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