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Takeaways from Sri Lanka Event: Climate Security in South Asia

Colombo Daily News 2 Dec 2017

Colombo Daily News, December 2

By Rachel Fleishman, Senior Fellow for Asia-Pacific, The Center for Climate and Security

On November 30 in Colombo, Sri Lanka, I participated in an event titledClimate Change and Resources Security: Challenges for Security and the Security Sector in South Asia” – convened just as Cyclone Ockhi hit Sri Lanka’s southeastern coast.* The storm provided a somber backdrop for the discussions. In his opening remarks, Sri Lanka’s Secretary to the Ministry of Defense Kapila Waidyaratne reported 7 killed and hundreds displaced. By the end of the session the confirmed death toll was 11, with more than 3000 having been evacuated.

Anyone seeking a fast-forward view of climate impacts need look no further than South Asia. Asia as a region has the dubious distinction of being the most at risk from climate stress. South Asia is particularly ill-placed, because of both global meteorological patterns and the presence of massive populations living in poverty, often lacking adequate infrastructure or adaptive capacity. In his opening remarks, conference host and Institute of National Security Studies Sri Lanka Director General Asanga Abeyagoonasekera, revealed that one of the primary contributions the Institute is making to Sri Lanka’s 2030 strategic plan, focuses on the security implications of climate change. It’s not difficult to understand why. Below is a recap of the climate and security themes covered in this important conference, as well as four key takeaways. (more…)

Nominee for Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works on Climate Change

Mississippi_River_Lock_and_Dam_number_22

Lock and Dam 22, Mississippi River, Hannibal, Missouri, US Army Corps of Engineers

On Thursday, November 9 the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) considered the nomination of R.D. James to be Assistant Secretary Of The Army for Civil Works. During the testimony, in an exchange with Senator Tim Kaine, Mr. James affirmed the practical approach to climate change taken by Secretary of Defense James Mattis in his own statements to the SASC (namely, that we have to prepared for it). Excerpt below: (more…)

Capitol Hill Event: Enhancing Mission Resiliency Against Environmental Threats

800px-Navy Norfolk Virginia

Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman passes downtown Norfolk waterfront (U.S. Navy photo, 3rd Class Tyler Folnsbee/Released)

The American Resilience Project & the Center for Climate and Security present “Enhancing Mission Resiliency Against Environmental Threats: A Conversation About Issues Raised in the Film Tidewater,” hosted by Members of the House Armed Services Committee: Rep. Elise Stefanik (R, NY); Rep. James Langevin (D, RI); Rep. Carol Shea-Porter (D, NH).

A panel and discussion will follow the film featuring Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense Maureen Sullivan, former Asst. Secretary of the Navy Dennis McGinn, and former DOD Deputy Comptroller John Conger. The panel will be moderated by Heather Messera of the Center for Climate and Security.

When: Wednesday November 15, 2017, 5:30 to 8pm (reception at 5:30, film at 6:30 pm)
Where: United States Capitol Visitor Center Orientation Theater North
RSVP: Click here to register

RELEASE: Bipartisan Military, Political and City Leaders Talk Climate and Security in Seattle

USS Nebraska_at_Naval_Base_Kitsap

USS NEBRASKA at Naval Base Kitsap Bangor, Washington (WA).

RELEASE:  Bipartisan Group of Military, Political and City Leaders Gather in Seattle to Talk Climate Change and Security

Event brings US and Asia-Pacific perspective on building U.S. military and community resilience to climate change

Seattle, WA – Ranking Member of the House Armed Services Committee Congressman Adam Smith, military experts who served in both Republican and Democratic administrations, and community leaders from the Seattle area are gathering to discuss existing and future national security risks from climate change, and outline opportunities for Asia-Pacific cooperation on the issue at a roundtable on Monday, October 30 from 1-5pm PDT (livestreamed here). The Center for Climate and Security, in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation, are hosting the forum to inform policy responses to climate risks that will benefit both military and civilian communities, at home and in the broader Asia-Pacific region.

(more…)

Military Times: Pentagon still preparing for climate change

Sailors_and_Soldiers_load_water_onto_an_MH-60S_Sea_Hawk_helicopter._(37044691925)

BEAUMONT, Texas (Sept. 3, 2017) U.S. Army Soldiers and U.S. Navy Sailors load water for delivery to victims of Hurricane Harvey, Sept. 3, 2017.  (U.S. Air Force photo by Tech. Sgt. Larry E. Reid Jr.,/Released)

There’s a great article in the Military Times today by Tara Copp detailing the degree to which the U.S. military continues to prepare for a changing climate, and the attendant impacts on its mission. In the piece, Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr Patrick Evans states:

“As Secretary Mattis has said, the department evaluates all potential threats that impact mission readiness, personnel health and installation resilience, then uses that information to assess impacts and identify responses,” Evans said. “The effect of a changing climate is one of a variety of threats and risks, but it’s not a mission of the Department of Defense.”

Though this approach by the Department of Defense is not surprising, given the military’s long history of attention to the issue stretching back to 2003, and the unequivocal statements on the subject from at least four senior Pentagon leaders in the current Administration (Secretary of Defense, Jim Mattis; Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul Selva; Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer; and Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, Lucian Niemeyer) the article provides an important look into the very real and practical risks climate change and related weather events pose to military infrastructure and operations. This is especially in focus for the Department of Defense in the wake of hurricanes Irma and Harvey, which have had a significant impact on the military in a number of ways, both in terms of its role in the relief effort, and the exposure of its infrastructure and assets. From the article: (more…)

Assistant Secretary of Defense Niemeyer: Climate Plays Pivotal Role in Military Mission

USS AlbanyOn July 18, 2017 the Senate Armed Services Committee held a confirmation hearing for Lucian L. Niemeyer, the next Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (IE&E), who ultimately received unanimous support from the Committee. Mr. Niemeyer’s comments on climate change, both in written responses to advance policy questions, and during the hearing, supported the strong commitment Secretary of Defense James Mattis has made to addressing climate change-related risks to the U.S. military’s mission. Here is a link to the full hearing video (question and response on climate change begin at 1:04:00). Below is an excerpt from Mr. Niemeyer’s written answers to advance policy questions on climate change, and an excerpt from the hearing itself. (more…)

Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Climate Instability and Political Instability

General_Paul_J._Selva,_USAF_(VJCS)During a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on July 18, 2017, the Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva, gave a detailed description of the impact he understands climate change has (and will have) on the global operating environment in which the armed services operate, and the need for the Department of Defense to be prepared for the threat. Of particular note, he stated: “It will also cause us to have to focus on places where climate instability might cause actual political instability in regions of the world we hadn’t previously had to pay attention to.” That inspires us to shamelessly plug our recent report, “Epicenters of Climate and Security: The New Geostrategic Landscape of the Anthropocene,” which explores a number of possible hot spots of the kind the General is referring to.

Below is both a full transcript of his comments, and a video of the exchange: (more…)