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The Australian Broadcasting Corporation (ABC) ran an interesting article recently about a series of briefings in Canberra organized by Australia’s Department of Defence, aimed at assessing climate change risks and implications for the Australian Defence Force (ADF). According to a presenter, Professor Steffen, the Department of Defence “…wanted to get a handle on the idea of tipping elements in the climate system that could cause rapid change that would be very difficult for human societies to deal with…” (more…)
National Defense Magazine has published a great piece by Sandra Erwin on one of Asia’s primary security issues – weather and natural disasters, and what that means for U.S. foreign policy. She states:
During Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s latest trip to the Far East, the impact of weather events was a front-burner topic in most meetings with local leaders, said a senior defense official who participated in the U.S. delegation that the defense secretary led in September.
This suggests that helping address the Asia-Pacific’s destructive weather patterns, which will be exacerbated by climate change, should be of critical importance to the U.S. military, and the U.S. government in general – particularly in context of its renewed strategic focus on the region. And while the primary rationale for such assistance is, and should be, humanitarian, there are clear diplomatic and national security co-benefits that follow. Citing a senior defense official, Erwin states:
The Obama administration will be seeking to boost the military’s capabilities to provide post-disaster relief, the official said. “We view that as a very important mission in that part of the world and we are working every day to strengthen our capacity to deliver such aid.”
Although the primary goal is to help the needy, there are also self-serving reasons to assist countries in distress, the official noted. “It’s a good opportunity to show a side of the military that often isn’t shown in broadcast news or other outlets in that part of the world,” he said. “We view it as a very important humanitarian mission but it is also in our interest to build goodwill and partner capacity.”
In a piece we wrote earlier this year titled “A Marshall Plan to Combat Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific,” we also argue that the United States will need to place the Asia-Pacific’s climate and natural disaster woes at the center of its so-called “Pacific Pivot.” Through providing disaster relief, as well as investments in climate resilience (for both climate adaptation and mitigation) the United States can build a broader and deeper relationship with allies and prospective allies in the region, which in turn could help it non-threateningly compete with China for influence. In short, the U.S. national security leadership has the opportunity to marry humanitarian relief and climate investments with its broader national security strategy. Let’s hope they seize it.
The Center for Strategic and International Studies has recently launched its “Pennington Family Foundation Series on Disasters and Community Resilience.” The first event was held on October 29, and additional forums are expected to be held throughout the rest of the year. Will be worth a look.
This is just a note that from October 8 – 18, the U.S. Pacific Command (USPACOM) and the Philippine military will be conducting joint exercises in Zambales – the 29th in what is an annual affair. These particular exercises will focus on disaster response and humanitarian assistance, and ensuring interoperability between the two forces in the event of disaster. This is an especially critical mission in the region, and is one that may become even more critical in the event that climate change projections play out, and increases in the frequency and intensity of extreme weather events take their toll. And as we have written previously, both for strategic and altruistic reasons, enhancing the resilience of the Asia-Pacific region to the effects of climate change should be a core U.S. national security priority in the coming decades.