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As the current Administration winds down, each of the President’s Cabinet members have submitted “Exit Memos” detailing “the progress we’ve made, their vision for the country’s future, and the work that remains in order to achieve that vision.” They are all worth a read. Of particular note is Secretary of Defense Ashton “Ash” Carter’s memo, and how it contextualizes the risks and opportunities associated with a changing climate. Despite perceptions to the contrary, Secretary Carter joins a growing list of defense leaders, civilian and military, stretching back to the early years of the George W. Bush Administration, that have taken climate change seriously as both a matter of national security, and a driver of innovative action. (more…)
U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made a recent statement at the Shangri-la Dialogue in Singapore, calling for a “principled security network” for the Asia-Pacific region – one that could collectively address the region’s myriad security challenges – including “the growing strategic impact of climate change.” Rather than ranking threats against each other, which tends to miss the integrated nature of the security landscape, Secretary Carter places climate change within the broader context of a range of pressing security threats and opportunities facing the region, that will be best addressed through a cooperative approach: (more…)
Former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates (serving as Secretary of Defense under both George W. Bush and Barack Obama) recently sat down for an interview with CBS’s Face the Nation. Host John Dickerson asked Secretary Gates about his views on the national security implications of climate change. The interview is transcribed below, but in short, Secretary Gates noted that climate change does have serious consequences for national security. Gates also noted that ranking risks is not an appropriate way to look at the security landscape. We agree (see “Is Climate Change the Biggest Security Threat?” Is Still A Bad Question). The sooner we stop asking, “Is climate a national security issue?” and start asking, “How will climate change impact our national security priorities?” the better off we will be. Secretary Gates is spot on. (more…)
By Christine Parthemore, Executive Director, The Center for Climate and Security
As part of a long trip through the Asia-Pacific, U.S. Secretary of Defense Ash Carter made news this week during his stop in the Philippines, where he announced new details of America’s current defense relationship and plans to expand it. The U.S. will be “deploying nine aircraft and hundreds of U.S. troops and special operators to at least seven bases in the Philippines as part of a new, regular presence there,” as Stars and Stripes reported. This additional presence, Carter stated, is primarily to “tamp down tensions” in the South China Sea.
With more U.S. assets and personnel heading to the region, the U.S.-Philippines partnership needs to include measures to ensure preparedness for some of the more damaging effects of climate change, including sea level rise, that will hit the Philippines particularly hard. The bilateral relationship already includes work relevant to preparing for the changing climate, including the humanitarian assistance/disaster relief elements of the annual Balikatan exercise. Other productive cooperative activities could include:
- Sharing sea level rise projections relevant to military and coast guard facilities.
- Where projections need updating, develop them together. This should include reviewing whether data can be leveraged from existing terrestrial monitors and remote sensing assets.
- Share lessons with the Philippines from U.S. bases already being hit by sea level rise, such as our critical defense sites in the Virginia Beach-Hampton Roads area.
Be sure to track Carter’s trip at the Department’s extensive Asia-Pacific Rebalance website, and check out the Center for Climate and Security’s analysis and recommendations on climate change and the Asia-Pacific rebalance here.