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Balancing on a Knife’s Edge: Climate Security Implications of the IPCC Findings

A wildfire at Florida Panther NWR. Photo by Josh O'Connor - USFWS.
A wildfire at Florida Panther NWR. Photo by Josh O’Connor – USFWS.

By Akash Ramnath and Kate Guy

New scientific consensus released today details the potential future course of climate change, with serious repercussions for international security and stability. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released the first product of its Sixth Assessment Report (AR6), summarizing the latest scientific understanding on the state of global climate change. This report, completed by the IPCC Working Group I (WGI), offers the best collective picture of how human caused climate change is impacting the physical systems of the planet now and in the future. 

The report makes clear that our planet’s climatic systems are changing rapidly in response to the accumulation of greenhouse gases in the atmosphere. By 2100, global average temperatures are expected to rise between 2.1-3.5°C in an intermediate scenario, or 3.3-5.7°C in a high emissions scenario, if humans do not curb and continue expanding greenhouse gas emitting activities. The path to keeping global temperatures to just 1.5°C of warming, the report states, looks increasingly narrow; while every additional fraction of a degree in planetary warming will have worsening impacts on climate stability.

The findings of the WGI report have two important implications for security audiences: First, cutting emissions and adapting to climate impacts are equally important for security in the coming years; second, that the increasing risk of crossing climate tipping points suggests security services must prepare for managing multiple climate-induced crises at once. 

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New Online Course on Climate Change & National Security

The Center for Climate and Security is pleased to partner with The Conservation Coalition‘s Market Environmentalism Academy on the launch of a new online course on climate change and national security, featuring a video (below) with our advisory board member, General Ronald Keys, US Air Force (Ret). 

The short 14 lesson course provides an overview of the climate change-national security nexus, and has modules on clean energy competition as well as extreme weather impacts. 

You can sign up for the course and watch the entire video with Gen. Keys here.

Climate Change in U.S. National Security Strategies under Obama, Trump and Biden

By Dr. Marc Kodack

As the Biden administration’s national security team ramps up efforts to incorporate climate change and its effects into their agencies and policies, work will begin on crafting a new National Security Strategy (NSS). To guide national security decision-making while the full strategy is drafted, President Biden has released interim national security strategic guidance (here). With the availability of this guidance we can compare and contrast how President Biden plans to address climate change and national security with how these issues were tackled in Obama and Trump National Security Strategies published in 2015 and 2017, respectively. In short, the Obama and Biden strategic guidance is strong on climate security (with Biden’s being especially robust), while the Trump NSS was almost entirely silent on the subject. Below is a detailed review.

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Goodman and Bergenas: Why the US Needs to Restructure its National Security Strategy

SouthPorticoBy Vanessa Pinney

This interview is part of a series in which Center for Climate and Security (CCS) interns interview members of the CCS Advisory Board and other key voices in the climate and security field. Vanessa Pinney separately interviewed Sherri Goodman, the former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security and current senior member of the CCS Advisory Board, and Johan Bergenas, the Senior Director of Public Policy at Vulcan Inc., about their recent joint article “The United States Needs a Natural Security Strategy to Regain Our Global Leadership.” In the article, the authors call for a restructuring of the U.S. National Security Strategy to confront the growing threats of climate change and natural resource depletion. The responses have been edited for length and clarity. (more…)

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