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New Report: China’s Climate Security Vulnerabilities

By Erin Sikorsky | Edited by Francesco Femia

A new, first-of-its-kind report from the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), China’s Climate Security Vulnerabilities explores China’s security vulnerabilities in the face of expected climate change effects, focusing on its key risks, the Chinese response so far, and identifies important uncertainties as conditions continue to develop. The report also makes several recommendations for the United States as it addresses what the Department of Defense has called the “pacing threat” from China.

While China is often credited with better integrating a long-term approach to its strategic planning than the West, there are key uncertainties regarding Beijing’s climate security preparations, including tensions between day-to-day politics and strategic planning, as well as the adequacy of its adaptation strategy, which is largely rooted in physical infrastructure projects.

From the Executive Summary:

From melting glaciers in the Tibetan Plateau to the effect of rising sea levels on the heavily populated Yangtze River Basin and Pearl River Delta, from record heatwaves and drought to unprecedented flooding from extreme precipitation—a range of climate hazards threaten critical Chinese civilian and military infrastructure, risk domestic political instability, including in already restive regions of the country, and challenge Chinese geopolitical interests abroad.

China’s senior leadership appears to recognize climate change as a national security threat. Under Xi Jinping, China has adopted a broad concept of national security that encompasses internal and external, traditional and non-traditional threats. It is unclear, however, the extent to which ecological and climate security topics have permeated Chinese military strategy and doctrine, though public documents and statements provide some indications that the People’s Liberation Army (PLA) is at least considering these climate implications.


Direct inquiries to: Andrew Facini, afacini [at] csrisks.org

Girl Security Fellows Offer Fresh Perspectives on Climate Security

By Elsa Barron and Brigitte Hugh

Girl Security is an organization that seeks to address the challenge of the under-representation of women in the national security field, highlighted by the fact that, “women make up less than 40 percent of the U.S. State Department’s leadership and 26 percent at the Pentagon.” The group’s National Security Fellowship program offers young women interested in national and global security challenges the opportunity to learn about some of the most pressing issues of today and develop a strong community with similar interests. As a capstone to the program, the fellows released a National Girl Security Strategy in January, which is led by a chapter on “Advancing a More Inclusive Approach to Climate Security.”

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Australia Faces Critical Climate Security Threats, and the Australian Security Leaders Climate Group (ASLCG) is Here to Help

By Lily Feldman

The Indo-Pacific is one of the most vulnerable regions in the world to climate change impacts. For its part, Australia is already experiencing record-breaking bushfires and droughts, among other environmental security risks. The country also must deal with the potential of further damage to its import and export markets due to the climate crisis. Despite these threats, Australian government action to tackle climate security risks has lagged. There is still a serious need for a more comprehensive government-backed environmental risk mitigation and response system, and the Australian Security Leadership Climate Group (ASLCG) aims to accelerate this process. 

The deadly Black Summer bushfires in 2019 exposed Australia’s vulnerabilities to climate change. Australia did not have the necessary resources available to combat and reduce the fires, so it had to seek international assistance. The Australian Defence Force also mobilized the most servicemen for domestic relief in its history, utilizing roughly 8,000 personnel. Highly ranked ex-service members of the Australian Defence Force experienced, first-hand, the impacts climate change had on communities, ecosystems, and overall security of their country. ASLCG executive member, and long-time Center for Climate and Security Senior Fellow Army Major Michael Thomas (Retd) expressed his frustration with Australia’s lack of response to the fires, stating:

This is no longer something that happens in a third-world country somewhere or in the future. This is happening here on our doorstep. It impacts everyday Australians.” 

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RELEASE: New Report Calls on Canada to Create a “Climate Security Plan” to Combat Security Threats of Climate Change

Washington, D.C., February 16, 2021 — The Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, released a new report today entitled “A Climate Security Plan for Canada.” This report looks at the challenges of climate change through the frames of Canada’s existing security and climate strategies, recommending that Canada develop a comprehensive plan, coordinated within its federal agencies, to proactively address the security threats and risks posed by climate change.

“Unlike the United States, Canada already has a mature climate strategy, but security threats and responses to those threats can be better integrated into that strategy,” said John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security and a co-author of the report.  “And while its security strategy recognizes climate change issues, those threats can be addressed in a more holistic way.  The two strategies need to be knitted together to create a coherent climate security strategy.”

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