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Event Summary: Understanding the Army, Navy, and Air Force Climate Strategies

By Pauline Baudu

On November 3, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) hosted a public discussion moderated by Hon. John Conger, Director Emeritus of CCS and Senior Advisor at the Council on Strategic Risks, on “Understanding the Army, Navy, and Air Force Climate Strategies.” 

The event featured Hon. Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist at CCS and Chair of the Board of the Council on Strategic Risks; Ed Oshiba, Acting Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Air Force (Energy, Installations and Environment); Paul Farnan, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Army (Installations, Energy and Environment); Jim Balocki, Principal Deputy Assistant Secretary of the U.S. Navy (Energy, Installations and Environment) and Rachel Ross, Deputy Chief Sustainability Officer of the U.S. Department of Defense (DoD). Panelists discussed the U.S. Army, Navy, and Air Force climate plans released earlier this year, an important step towards integrating climate security planning across DoD and adding substance to existing national strategic efforts, as noted by Mr. Conger.

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BRIEFER: Climate Change a “Top Tier Threat” in the 2022 U.S. National Security Strategy

By Sherri Goodman, Holly Kaufman, and Pauline Baudu

The Biden Administration’s new National Security Strategy (NSS), released in October 2022, elevates attention and focus on climate security beyond any prior NSS. The security risks of climate change get the attention in the NSS they have long deserved. Climate change is in fact framed as a top-tier threat on a par with geopolitical challenges from U.S. adversaries and competitors.

The NSS states:

“Of all of the shared problems we face, climate change is the greatest and potentially [most] existential for all nations. Without immediate global action during this crucial decade, global temperatures will cross the critical warming threshold of 1.5 degrees Celsius after which scientists have warned some of the most catastrophic climate impacts will be irreversible.”

The world is already experiencing deadly and life-altering climate-related catastrophes (e.g, flooding in Pakistan, fires and drought in California, hurricanes in Florida) when the Earth’s global average land and ocean surface temperature has risen at least 1.1 degrees Celsius since the mid-1800s (approximately 2 degrees Fahrenheit). This NSS recognizes the unprecedented risks posed by such disasters. It therefore includes climate risks and related solutions in every aspect of national security and foreign policy, from reduction of carbon pollution to building resilience at home and abroad, and threading climate risks into every regional strategy. In this regard, the new NSS includes many of the recommendations in our Briefer of June 2021,“Climate Change in the U.S. National Security Strategy: History and Recommendations.”

The most recent NSS addresses our five key recommendations as well emerging concerns due to Russia’s war in Ukraine. These are 1) include all sectors, not just energy, including sources and sinks; 2) expand the concept of climate security to ecological security; 3) increase environmental monitoring; 4) forecast and plan for unpredictability; 5) assert strong U.S. leadership on climate and inter-related global ecological concerns, including passing aggressive climate and environmental restoration legislation and appropriating sufficient funding.

This briefer by the Center for Climate and Security focuses on these five recommendations and the relevant provisions within the NSS, concluding that the NSS both succeeds in recognizing the interdependence of all natural systems and resources, but also embodies several contradictions which should be improved. However, “the theme of the 2022 NSS is spot on: ‘No country should withhold progress on existential transnational issues like the climate crisis because of bilateral differences.'”

EVENT: The Security Implications of the Pakistan Floods: A Roundtable Discussion

By Elsa Barron

Pakistan has been hit with unprecedented levels of flooding over this summer’s monsoon season, submerging one-third of the entire country under water. Already, one early attribution study has linked this disaster to climate change, finding that this severity of flooding is extremely unlikely without existing global temperature rise. 

While the scale of the disaster is linked to climate change, the scale of the disaster’s impact is linked to poor governance, writes Jumaina Siddiqui. The politically unstable government in Pakistan has failed to develop comprehensive resilience measures, even after similar extreme flood events of the past. 

This has led to devastating humanitarian costs, and yet that is not the end of the potential risks. As Erin Sikorsky and Andrea Rezzonico write, “These climate hazards will compound existing challenges in the country, including political instability, Islamic extremism, and nuclear security.” Given such intersecting risks, it is critical to take a holistic climate security approach to the current crisis in Pakistan. As Ameera Adil and Faraz Haider write, Pakistan’s climate security threats should inspire a rethink of comprehensive national security. 

In order to discuss these articles and themes, the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) will convene a public roundtable discussion on Friday. September 30th, from 9 to 10 am EST on “The Security Implications of the Pakistan Floods.” The expert panel, moderated by CCS Director Erin Sikorsky, will include: 

  • Ameera Adil, Assistant Director Sustainability at National University of Sciences and Technology (NUST), Pakistan
  • Faraz Haider, Research Associate, Faculty of Aerospace and Strategic Studies, Air University, Islamabad
  • Andrea Rezzonico, Deputy Director, Converging Risks Lab, Council on Strategic Risks
  • Jumaina Siddiqui, Senior Program Officer, South Asia United States Institute of Peace

We hope that you will join us for this event. Please register here to access the full invitation and webinar details. 

BRIEFER: The Security Implications of the Pakistan Floods

By Andrea Rezzonico and Erin Sikorsky
Edited by Francesco Femia

The tragedy unfolding in Pakistan in the wake of unprecedented flooding late last month, which has inundated a third of the country and displaced millions of people, is not only a humanitarian catastrophe but also poses significant security threats. Already before the floods, South Asia experienced record breaking heat waves in April and May, leading to unbearable living conditions, widespread energy blackouts, and rapid glacial melt. These climate hazards will compound existing challenges in the country, including political instability, Islamic extremism, and nuclear security.

Given these dynamics, efforts to address the immediate humanitarian crisis as well as develop longer-term climate adaptation and resilience measures are not just the right thing for Western countries to do—such investments will also provide security benefits as they contribute to a more stable Pakistan in the future. In particular, the United States must live up to its climate finance commitments, and better integrate climate considerations into the range of engagements it has with Pakistan, including ongoing military training and support.

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