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The Geopolitics of COVID-19 and Climate Change

COVID-19By Shiloh Fetzek

The Stockholm Environment Institute and Mistra Geopolitics hosted a webinar on the Geopolitics of COVID-19 and Climate Change on 3 April. It covered how the ongoing crisis might impact climate ambition in the near term, whether or not global cooperation around the Covid response might increase resilience and counteract trends toward nationalism and isolationism, and how best to integrate climate and sustainability objectives into pandemic recovery efforts. (more…)

Health-Related Costs of Climate Change Will Add Billions to Damage Assessments

Offutt Air Force Base_battling_flood_waters_190317-F-IT794-1053

An aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base affected by major flood waters March 17, 2019. An increase in water levels caused by record-setting snowfall over the winter, and a large drop in air pressure, caused widespread flooding across the state of Nebraska. (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake)

By Dr. Marc Kodack

The recent physical damage and destruction of facilities and infrastructure in the United States, both on and off military installations (e.g., Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida from Hurricane Michael in 2018 and  Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska due to flooding from the Missouri River in 2019), will cost billions of dollars to repair or replace. Both Hurricane Michael and the Missouri River flooding were likely influenced by climate change. Besides the physical effects of these and other events, there are also health-related costs from climate change that will affect the populations that live and work on installations, their surrounding communities, and the larger surrounding region. These health care costs will be in the billions of dollars, and in the midst of the COVID-19 crisis, it seems even more critical than ever to alleviate other strains on health security in the United States,

To estimate what these climate-related health costs may be, Limaye et al (2019) used data from 10 cases across 11 states that occurred in 2012. The research improves on 2011 research by Knowlton et al. Understanding these costs are important because health costs are regularly absent from the damage assessments prepared for facilities and infrastructure, whether this infrastructure is military or civilian; identifying these costs raises their importance for estimating future health costs and their implications to the holistic damage estimates that climate change is forecasted to cause; and better estimating these costs prepares communities to assess whether the kinds of adaptation efforts they undertake, including those related to health, will return the benefits they anticipate. (more…)

New Initiative on Climate and Health: What Security Indicators Should We Have?


Navy Lt. Cmdr. Karen Corson, Combined Joint Task Force-Horn of Africa environmental health officer, Janet Schulman, USAID representative to Djibouti, and Dr. Coulibaly K. Abdi discuss the cholera outbreak. Photo by Chief Petty Officer Mary Popejoy

By Christine Parthemore

In 2015, The Lancet, one of the world’s premier medical journals, released a landmark volume on the connections between health and climate change developed by an international, multidisciplinary commission. The Commission on Health and Climate Change concluded that “tackling climate change could be the greatest global health opportunity of the 21st century.” This week, The Lancet launches a long-term effort to build on the commission’s work with a new initiative called the Lancet Countdown: tracking progress on health and climate change. (more…)

New U.S. Assessment on Climate and Health: More Research Needed on Security Implications


Philippine and U.S. service members learn to identify heat stroke (U.S. Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Abbey M. Perria)

By Christine Parthemore, Executive Director, The Center for Climate and Security

This week, the U.S. Global Change Research Program released an extensive new volume on the health impacts of climate change. The Impacts of Climate Change on Human Health in the United States: A Scientific Assessment is focused on the American population in general, but just looking at the section titles it is easy to see how many of the specific impacts could require special attention for the security forces based in the United States. Climate change effects that could bring new challenges to the health of U.S. military personnel, their families, and their communities — for example, via temperature-related illness, new patterns of vector-borne diseases, and air and water quality changes — receive extensive treatment. While security issues are not the focus of this assessment, it makes clear that a natural progression would be to analyze potential impacts specifically for U.S. armed forces and their work, including training conditions and force health protection needs.  


A text box in chapter 9 of the assessment highlights these types of challenges for the U.S. armed forces, noting that “key research questions remain” but that the Department of Defense is on the case. Indeed, a natural progression of this extensive assessment will be to analyze potential impacts specifically for U.S. armed forces and their work, including training conditions and force health protection needs.

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