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Pandemic Highlights Serious Vulnerabilities to Transnational Security Threats In a Climate-Changed World

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Kate Guy, Chair of the Center for Climate and Security’s National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel (NSMIP), presents findings of the “Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change” report on Capitol Hill – Feb 26, 2020

Recent events surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic have forced us to take a hard look at the vulnerability of our modern societies. Institutions and infrastructure, from public health facilities to first responders, are facing new strains from transnational threats that most are under-prepared to deal with. These possibilities were not unprecedented, and in fact the U.S. intelligence community has been warning about the risks of global pandemics for years, including in the last three Worldwide Threat Assessments. In this context, what more can be done to prepare our societies and governments against transnational threats to come, including climate change and its attendant security consequences?

On February 24, the ‘National Security, Military, and Intelligence Panel on Climate Change’ (NSMIP) of the Center for Climate and Security released a new report assessing the security implications of projected future human-induced global warming throughout the 21st Century. Titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change: How Likely Warming Scenarios Indicate a Catastrophic Security Future,” the report uses two scenarios of future warming to analyze the resulting threats posed by climate change to every region of the world, as well as overall global security.

Released in a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the report authors presented their overall findings that climate change could pose ‘High-to-Catastrophic threats to security’ at all levels, and even low warming scenarios harshly impact all regions of the world. The authors of the report also call for “net zero global emissions as soon as possible” in order to avoid that security future, as well as major investments in climate-proofing society for inevitable climatic changes. The briefing was held in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), and the video can be watched in full here and below.

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Last Year, the U.S. Intelligence Community Warned of a Coronavirus Pandemic: Will We Heed their Climate Warnings?

2019 Worldwide Threat AssessmentBy John Conger, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell

In the absence of a public hearing and release of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” this year, it is instructive to look at last year’s assessment to see what the nation’s intelligence professionals were predicting. The following passage was particularly striking:

We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or largescale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support. Although the international community has made tenuous improvements to global health security, these gains may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change.

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