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General Castellaw on Devastating New Sea Level Rise Exposure Projections

New Sea Level Rise Projections for Basra

Sea level projections for Basra, Iraq. Source: Kulp, S.A., Strauss, B.H. New elevation data triple estimates of global vulnerability to sea-level rise and coastal flooding. Nat Commun 10, 4844 (2019)

A new study by Climate Central’s Scott Kulp and Benjamin Strauss, published in the prestigious Nature Communications, finds that populated coastlines around the world are three times more exposed to sea level rise than previously thought, which has the potential to almost completely inundate major coastal cities around the world. The potential security implications of the loss of these major coastal urban areas are enormous. In an article covering the new report, the New York Times spoke with the Center for Climate and Security’s Lieutenant General John Castellaw, US Marine Corps (Ret), about projections for the important coastal city of Basra in Iraq. From the article:

Basra, the second-largest city in Iraq, could be mostly underwater by 2050. If that happens, the effects could be felt well beyond Iraq’s borders, according to John Castellaw, a retired Marine Corps lieutenant general who was chief of staff for United States Central Command during the Iraq War.

Further loss of land to rising waters there “threatens to drive further social and political instability in the region, which could reignite armed conflict and increase the likelihood of terrorism,” said General Castellaw, who is now on the advisory board of the Center for Climate and Security, a research and advocacy group in Washington.

“So this is far more than an environmental problem,” he said. “It’s a humanitarian, security and possibly military problem too.”

Read the full sea level rise study here.

 

US Embassy in Iraq Issues Mosul Dam Failure Warning

800px-Mosul_Dam_BW_Overhead

Photo by, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

The US Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq recently issued stern warnings about the possible breach of the Mosul Dam, stating that the “Mosul Dam faces a serious and unprecedented risk of catastrophic failure with little warning.” This is in the aftermath of the August 2014 “Battle for Mosul Dam” over control of the dam between Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and Kurdish Peshmerga forces who were supported by Iraqi troops and US-led Coalition airstrikes.  Now the risk is not just control of the dam by ISIL, but the inability to continue maintenance and regular running of the dam. This is a stark look at how resources like water face additional stresses during times of increased state fragility, instability, conflict and a changing climate (more on that here).  (more…)

Thomas Friedman Cites the Center for Climate and Security on Extreme Weather in the Middle East and South Asia

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015. Scorching temperatures are normal this time of year, but an unprecedented heat wave prompted Iraqi authorities to declare a mandatory four-day holiday beginning Thursday. The government has urged residents to stay out of the sun and drink plenty of water. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

Iraqis displaced by conflict collect water at al-Takia refugee camp in Baghdad, Iraq, Thursday, July 30, 2015. (AP Photo/ Khalid Mohammed)

New York Times columnist and Pulitzer Prize winner Thomas Friedman published an Op-ed today, “The World’s Hot Spot,” about the extreme heat waves plaguing the Middle East and South Asia, including Iran (citing AccuWeather’s Anthony Sagliani who stated that a July 31 reading in the Iranian city of Bandar Mahshahr was ‘…one of the most incredible temperature observations I have ever seen, and it is one of the most extreme readings ever in the world.’) The column explores political protests and sweeping changes in government, particularly in Iraq, which followed from the perceived inadequate response to the heat wave, and asks questions about whether or not enough attention is being paid to climatic events by the region’s political leaders.

Friedman cited the Center for Climate and Security’s Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, regarding how climate stresses are measured against other security risks, as well as how such extreme events can place significant strains on the social contract between governments and their respective publics. The full citation: (more…)

Why U.S. Special Forces Like Solar Power

CleanTechnica has posted an interesting article detailing five key reasons why U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan appreciate and use solar power technology. The top-line reasons identified are:

1. Solar Power Saves Money

2. Solar Power Saves Planes and Trucks

3. Solar Power Saves Wear and Tear

4. Solar Power is Just Plain Better

5. Solar Power Builds Strong Communities

We would add “solar power saves lives” to that list, given the human cost of protecting fuel convoys in theater. As Department of Defense officials revealed after a review in 2011, “over 3,000 American soldiers or contractors were killed in fuel supply convoys between 2003 and 2007 in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This issue will be explored further in a forthcoming documentary “the Burden,” produced by Truman National Security fellow Roger Sorkin. However, the author does allude to this problem under reason #2:

By cutting down on fuel deliveries, the hybrid solar units free up aircraft and trucks for other missions. According to Kidd, the project has resulted in the equivalent of pulling 185 trucks out of fuel convoys.

In turn, that reduces the risk for Soldiers assigned to secure air drops and fuel convoys.

Read the full piece here.

UPDATE: a colleague of ours adds another good reason why U.S. Special Forces appreciate solar power: It’s quiet, and has much less of a thermal signature, which is important to low profile operations.

Climate Change in Iraq: Watch This Space

Just spotted this great two-page UN fact sheet on climate change in Iraq. Though it’s not often discussed in the media, Iraq is “one of the Arab region’s most vulnerable countries to climate change.” On top of an increasingly variable climate, the country is experiencing severe water shortages and desertification from damaging farming practices and water resource mismanagement (not to mention continued political and economic instability). As the country reconstructs itself after a decade of conflict, building resilience to rapid changes in the climate will be of critical importance, and may also offer opportunities for peace-building. Watch this space.

Sharing Water After the Arab Spring

When the dust settles in the Arab world, there will be two major questions asked: who actually holds power now, and what are we going to do about water?

UPI recently reported on the numerous water-sharing agreements that are being negotiated and renegotiated as the nations of the Arab world simultaneously experience the institution-shaking phenomenon of the Arab Awakening, and an unusual string of punishing droughts (thanks to Andrew Holland at ASP for the heads up). (more…)

Eye on Iran: Lake Urmia, Water, Climate and Security in a Volatile Region

This blog also appeared on the humanitarian news site, AlertNet

The strategic position of Iran, straddling the energy-thruway that is the Strait of Hormuz, bordering, among other nations, Iraq, Turkey, Afghanistan and Pakistan, and sitting a mere 1,000 miles northeast of an anxious Israel, is unquestionably important. However, while the recent focus has been on whether or not Iran has the capability and the will to turn its domestic nuclear energy program into a nuclear weapons program, another human and economic disaster looms relatively unnoticed: the drying up of Lake Urmia in the country’s northwest – the largest lake in the Middle East. Given the current volatile political landscape surrounding Iran, this is worth a closer look. (more…)