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Briefer: Latin America, Climate Change, Security and the Role of Regional Militaries

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The Center for Climate and Security’s Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barret, U.S. Navy (Ret) delivers the keynote address at the CDEMA conference (Dec 13, 2018): “Climate and Security in the Caribbean Region: A Roadmap to Resilience.”

By Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, U.S. Navy (Retired)

The Center for Climate and Security published several analyses this year explaining how climate dynamics have contributed to migration crises emanating from the Northern Triangle (i.e. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) and Venezuela. See here and here. These crises continue to affect neighboring states, especially states that vulnerable populations perceive as offering greener pastures. Though the ways in which environmental trends affect at-risk populations is well known, how these trends affect national stability and security is largely underappreciated and under-discussed. More specifically, how climate-related trends might disrupt military capabilities and facilities, including military training ranges and bases, within contexts increasingly defined by the fallout of climate related/driven crises, has yet to fully permeate military thought and strategic planning. This article briefly explores the climate – security linkages within the Latin American context, and discusses what regional militaries need to do to stay ahead of strategic risks that put their effectiveness at risk.

To read the full briefer, click here.

Climate Change Threatening Military Bases Across Florida

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Damaged ceiling of Hanger 5 at Tyndall Air Force Base early in 2019 – a result of Hurricane Michael [Tampa Bay Times photo by Tailyr Irvine]

In a recent Op-ed for the Tampa Bay Times, the Center for Climate and Security’s John Conger highlighted the climate change-related risks that are increasingly affecting the U.S. military in Florida, as well as the broader national security and defense implications of those risks. The piece begins:

Floridians know that climate change is endangering their health, prosperity and communities. A new hurricane season is a reminder that it’s also threatening America’s national security — beginning with military bases right here in Florida.

When Hurricane Michael struck the Panhandle last fall, it devastated Tyndall Air Force Base. Winds of 160 mph ripped off roofs and damaged or destroyed nearly 700 buildings; 11,000 people had to relocate. Forty percent of the base’s F-22s were unready to fly and had to be stowed in hangars that could not protect them. Every plane was damaged.

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The Climate Threat to the US Energy System

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Solar panels are tested during a NATO exercise in Hungary

In an article published in Defense One last week, Amy Myers Jaffe highlights the results of a March 2019 Council on Foreign Relations workshop with 44 experts (including the Director of the Center for Climate and Security, John Conger) titled “Climate Risk Impacts on the Energy System: Examining the Financial, Security, and Technological Dimensions.” The conversation was wide-ranging, exploring critical energy systems across both the civilian and military realms. On the military side of the ledger, the group raised serious concerns about the vulnerability of the Department of Defense’s energy supply to climate change-driven disruptions. In particular: (more…)

Roll Call Video: Is the Military Ready for Climate Change?

Conger_Roll CallRoll Call released a video recently featuring Center for Climate and Security (CCS) Director, John Conger, and CCS Advisory Board Member, Dr. Marcus King, exploring the question of whether or not the U.S. military is ready for a changing climate. Most of those interviewed for the piece, including Colonel Brian Laidlaw, Tyndall Air Force Base’s Installation Commander (who noted that they simply don’t have the money to repair half the buildings on the base that were damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018), suggested that the military has quite some way to go before it’s fully prepared. (more…)

New Zealand Defence Plan Includes Entire Chapter on the Climate Crisis

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A New Zealand Defence Force staff sergeant stands at attention after laying a wreath in the water in honor of ANZAC Day during Pacific Partnership 2011 (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Michael Russell/Released)

In what is one of the most robust treatments of climate change in any current defense plan, the New Zealand Ministry of Defence’s Defense Capability Plan 2019, released on June 11, includes an entire chapter devoted to addressing climate change. The Plan, according to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) website, “sets out the Government’s indicative planned investments in the New Zealand Defence Force” and “covers all capability investments out to 2030, and signals investments following 2030 that will be assessed through the next Defence White Paper in 2022.”

Chapter Five, titled “Responding to the Climate Crisis,” can be found on page 17, and refers back to last year’s “Climate Crisis: Defense Readiness and Responsibilities”  assessment from the New Zealand Ministry of Defence, which indicated a major increase in attention to the security risks of climate change from the Kiwi military. (more…)

Pentagon Environmental Research Program Webinar on Climate Change Adaptation

The_PentagonThe U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) host an excellent webinar series to “promote the transfer of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions developed through projects funded in five program areas.” One of those areas involves presenting solutions to the security implications of climate change. The webinar scheduled for June 20 at 12pm ET is titled “Developing Adaptation Strategies to Address Climate Change and Uncertainty,” and promises to be an interesting discussion with Dr. Yonas Demissie of Washington State University and Dr. Mark Wigmosta of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Click here for more information, and to register.

In 2020, the Commander-in-Chief Will Have a “Responsibility to Prepare” for the Security Risks of Climate Change

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Soldiers with the Texas Army National Guard move floodwaters from Hurricane Harvey (U.S. Army photo by 1st Lt. Zachary West)

In an article published today in War on the Rocks, the Center for Climate and Security’s Caitlin Werrell, Francesco Femia and John Conger outline a “Responsibility to Prepare Strategy” for whomever is President in 2020, which includes a “Climate Security Plan” and a “Just Add Climate” approach to  traditional national security priorities. The article is a preview of a forthcoming set of recommendations by the Center’s “Climate and Security Advisory Group,” which will build on policy recommendations from 2016 and 2018. From the article: (more…)