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REPORT RELEASE: The Nexus of Climate Change, Ecological Disruption, Stability, and Security


By Andrea Rezzonico

Last week, the Climate and Land Use Alliance launched Climate and Forests 2030, a program aimed at mobilizing finance at scale to help realize the potential of forests to mitigate climate change, benefit people, and protect biodiversity.

CSR contributed a report to this effort titled “The Nexus of Climate Change, Ecological Disruption, Stability, and Security,” which was authored by experts from each of CSR’s three institutes: The Center for Climate and Security, The Converging Risks Lab, and the Nolan Center. This work is a part of CSR’s greater mission to address these converging risks under its newly expanded Ecological Security Program, an initiative of the Converging Risks Lab.

The report examines how climate change and ecological degradation, particularly deforestation and poor land use practices, intersect to undermine security and create instability. It analyzes how this nexus affects security in four categories: the intra-state, inter-state, and non-state actor levels, as well as looking at Indigenous and vulnerable populations through a lens of justice and equity. It then offers concrete recommendations aimed at both managing existing risks and preventing catastrophic risks in the long term. 

Recommendations highlighted in the report include:

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RELEASE: The Council on Strategic Risks Significantly Expands Its Ecological Security Program

October 20, 2021 — To fill an urgent gap in understanding and addressing the security implications of global ecological disruption, the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) has significantly expanded its Ecological Security Program over the past months, with the help of a grant of close to $1 million from the V. Kann Rasmussen Foundation. The program, housed within CSR’s Converging Risks Lab, addresses all elements of global ecological disruption, including biodiversity loss and beyond, caused by drivers such as habitat change, direct (and often illegal) exploitation of organisms, climate change, pollution, and the spread of damaging invasive or otherwise destructive organisms. 

Ecological disruption–from the loss of biodiversity and their ecological benefits that support life or through the emergence of new ecological harms–remains largely absent from the agendas of the U.S. and international security communities. This absence persists despite its profound implications for political instability, geopolitical clashes, food and water stress, mass displacements of people, and other adverse security outcomes.

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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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RELEASE: Landmark Report from Security Experts Identifies Ecological Disruption as the 21st Century’s Most Underappreciated Security Threat

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Washington DC, February 9, 2021 – The Converging Risks Lab of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) released a landmark report today, The Security Threat That Binds Us, that identifies ecological disruption as a major and underappreciated security threat and calls on the United States to reboot its national security architecture and doctrine to better respond to this evolving threat landscape. Ongoing stresses to critical Earth systems, including to water, food, wildlife, forests and fisheries, heightens the risks of future pandemics, conflict, political instability, loss of social cohesion, economic harm, and other security outcomes.

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