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Philippines: Climate Change a Top Priority in 2013

Typhoon_Ketsana_accumulated_rainfall_in_PhilippinesAlertNet reports that the Filipino government intends to implement a series of climate change policies in 2013, building off the creation of the People’s Survival Fund last year, a $24.5 million program designed to “implement local climate change action plans to make communities more resilient to climate-induced disasters.” While the allocation of funds is yet to occur, indications are that President Benigno Aquino III is placing climate change at the very top of the country’s agenda. (more…)

National Defense Magazine: “WMD Threat in Asia: ‘W’ Is For Weather”

050116-N-6954B-002National Defense Magazine has published a great piece by Sandra Erwin on one of Asia’s primary security issues  – weather and natural disasters, and what that means for U.S. foreign policy. She states:

During Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s latest trip to the Far East, the impact of weather events was a front-burner topic in most meetings with local leaders, said a senior defense official who participated in the U.S. delegation that the defense secretary led in September.

This suggests that helping address the Asia-Pacific’s destructive weather patterns, which will be exacerbated by climate change, should be of critical importance to the U.S. military, and the U.S. government in general – particularly in context of its renewed strategic focus on the region. And while the primary rationale for such assistance is, and should be, humanitarian, there are clear diplomatic and national security co-benefits that follow. Citing a senior defense official, Erwin states:

The Obama administration will be seeking to boost the military’s capabilities to provide post-disaster relief, the official said. “We view that as a very important mission in that part of the world and we are working every day to strengthen our capacity to deliver such aid.”

Although the primary goal is to help the needy, there are also self-serving reasons to assist countries in distress, the official noted. “It’s a good opportunity to show a side of the military that often isn’t shown in broadcast news or other outlets in that part of the world,” he said. “We view it as a very important humanitarian mission but it is also in our interest to build goodwill and partner capacity.”

In a piece we wrote earlier this year titled “A Marshall Plan to Combat Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific,” we also argue that the United States will need to place the Asia-Pacific’s climate and natural disaster woes at the center of its so-called “Pacific Pivot.” Through providing disaster relief, as well as investments in climate resilience (for both climate adaptation and mitigation) the United States can build a broader and deeper relationship with allies and prospective allies in the region, which in turn could help it non-threateningly compete with China for influence. In short, the U.S. national security leadership has the opportunity to marry humanitarian relief and climate investments with its broader national security strategy. Let’s hope they seize it.

After the Elections: The Pacific Pivot and Climate Change Resilience

No matter how the U.S. Presidential election turned out, the decision by the U.S. national security establishment to refocus its attention on the Asia-Pacific region was likely to proceed apace.

Last week, Stars and Stripes reported on U.S. Army operation “Orient Shield,” and framed it in context of this strategic pivot: (more…)

Building U.S. Alliances in the Asia-Pacific: Trade, Disaster Relief and Climate Change Adaptation

For the past few years, the United States had made an unmistakeable shift in foreign policy attention to the Asia-Pacific region (President Obama has described this change as a “pivot,” though the U.S. government is not necessarily comfortable with that term of art). There are both military and civilian dimensions to this shift, and the U.S. will need to deftly combine development, diplomacy and defense in order to maintain a sustainable and beneficent influence in the region. (more…)

Watch This Space: A Recovering Thailand and the Rainy Season

The rainy season is approaching in Thailand, yet the country has not yet fully recovered from the devastating floods that inundated the nation last year (the worst in over 50 years). As we highlighted last November, the nexus of climate change, rainfall variability and political stability in Thailand is a fragile one. Though Thailand is not considered one of the nations most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, vulnerability can change over time, and recent natural catastrophes have tested its resilience. This is a critical space to watch, not just for Thais, neighboring countries or those concerned about global food prices (Thailand is responsible for 30 percent of global trade in rice), but for U.S. national security planners as well. Given the so-called U.S. strategic “pivot” to the Asia-Pacific, assisting countries like Thailand in their climate adaptation strategies may be a critical component of advancing U.S. national security interests. We talk about this further in our piece “A Marshall Plan to Combat Climate Change in the Asia-Pacific: The Missing Piece of the New U.S. Security Strategy.”

Climate Change Impacts in the Asia-Pacific: The Case of the Australia Defence Force

We have focused a lot on the impact of climate change on U.S. foreign and defense policy. We’ve also looked at how the U.S. “Pacific pivot,” or as the U.S. State Department refers to it, the “Asia-Pacific re-balancing,” presents an opportunity for the U.S. to simultaneously address it’s most critical foreign policy and national security objectives, and the impacts of climate change. This focus on U.S. policy is based on both our location (we’re in Washington, DC) and the simple fact that what the U.S. does, in general, has an enormous impact on the world. (more…)