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Highlights from the U.S. Navy War College Conference on Climate Change and National Security

Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic and the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua A. Moore

By Elsa Barron

On January 9th, climate and security experts, many from the Center on Climate and Security (CCS), virtually convened for a US Naval War College conference, “The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate.” The conference organizer, Dr. Andrea Cameron, highlighted the timeliness of this conversation, as the United States enters an executive transition that will bring a heightened focus on climate change as a serious national security threat. However, even with that prioritization, comprehensively addressing the security implications of climate change will be a hefty task. Keynote speaker, Hon. Alice Hill, Member of the CCS Advisory Board, highlighted that the two largest challenges on this front are a lack of education about climate change and its politicization in the United States (see keynote here). By providing a space for a robust and nonpartisan discussion of climate change and its national security risks, the Naval War College hopes to help address those concerns.  

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EVENT: US Navy War College: The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate, January 8

Rough seas pound the hull of Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic as she sails alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua A. Moore

On January 8, the US Naval War College will host a public conference, The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate: Risk and Resilience in the 21st Century. Center for Climate and Security (CCS)CCS Advisory Board member, the Hon. Alice Hill, will serve as the keynote speaker, and panels feature many members of the CCS staff and community, including CCS Advisory Board Members the Hon. Sherri Goodman, Dr. Marcus King, and Rear Adm. Ann Phillips (Ret). Also on tap to speak are CCS Director John Conger and CCS Senior Research Fellow Josh Busby.
We’re delighted to see such an event on the War College’s agenda–In our Climate Security Plan for America, we recommend expanded training programs across the US government to ensure federal employees understand how to characterize and respond to climate security risks. This type of conference is an excellent step toward fulfilling that recommendation. For more information, check out this video about the conference and please click here to register for what is sure to be a fascinating discussion.

Snapping Shrimp Can Disrupt the Navy’s Search for Mines as the Oceans Warm

Fat handed snapping shrimp

Fat-handed Snapping Shrimp. Photographer: Michael Marmach, Museums Victoria

By Dr. Marc Kodack

And now for something completely different. Marine biologists presented an interesting paper at the Ocean Science Meeting 2020 on research they conducted on “snapping shrimp.” As ocean temperatures warm because of climate change, the cracking noise that snapping shrimp create increases in loudness and frequency. The cracking likely “helps the shrimp communicate, defend territories and hunt for food.” One of the implications is that the ocean soundscape will become noisier, potentially affecting not only the communication of ocean animals, e.g., fish, but sonar systems used by a fisherman or by the U.S. Navy to detect mines or other operations. Thus, while there are global effects from climate change, the scale of climate change effects will reach all the way down to the very local level – e.g., single species such as snapping shrimp – that can directly interfere with strategic marine national defense assets. Who said this topic couldn’t get any more interesting?

Ocean Blues or a Bright Blue Future?

The national security cutter USCGC Bertholf the Arctic Ocean Sept. 14, 2012, during Arctic Shield 2012 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Timothy Tamargo/Released)

By Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (ret.) and Annabelle Leahy

The pandemic of Covid-19 has tremendous and largely unknown implications for global health, security, and economic prosperity, but as we work diligently to steer the future toward positive outcomes, we must not lose track of the growing challenges and opportunities that continually unfold with another well-known but not well-understood global phenomenon — the ocean.

The ocean and its resources are inextricably tied to human health, the economy, and security. The link between the environment, particularly the ocean, and human health, is an area of increasing global importance as climate change increases the incidence of toxin release from harmful algal blooms, damage from catastrophic weather events, and potential for contagion from waterborne viruses and bacteria. These threats are not just related to health but also to security. Climate change is a core systemic risk to the 21st century world, and we must specifically address the ocean in this discussion. 

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