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The New Water Development Report and Implications for Security

WWDR 2020 CoverBy Dr. Marc Kodack

Climate change has and will continue to have both direct and indirect effects around the world. Changes in water will be one of the most visible direct effects, whether it is too little water, such as during prolonged droughts; too much, such as flooding caused by sea-level rise or tropical storms; or misaligned timing, such as when seasonal rains are early or late. Across numerous societies, the climate change-water interaction will be disruptive, but through mitigation and adaptation actions, this interaction can at least be ameliorated. However, these disruptions will also have significant security implications locally, regionally, and globally depending on their intensity, spatial extent, and longevity, and due to their disproportionate effects on different segments of societies. This deteriorating security environment is very likely to increase the vulnerability of affected populations, enhance inequities, and interfere with mitigation and adaptation actions, which will prolong instability. Thus, any security analysis must integrate the effects of climate change on water, and its attendant effects on the vulnerability of populations, to capture a true picture of the security environment. Resources like the newly-released World Water Development Report (WWDR), titled “Water and Climate Change,” should therefore be taken very seriously by the security community.

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Lack of Discussion of Climate Change Effects on Federal Water Infrastructure

State of the InfrastructureBy Dr. Marc Kodack  

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) and the Bureau of Reclamation (BOR) released a joint report at the end of 2019 on their water-related infrastructure that went largely unnoticed. Notably, however, the report omits discussion of climate change implications for this aging infrastructure. The report includes infrastructure that the two entities collaboratively operate, as well as respective programs for “power generation, water supply, navigation, flood risk reduction, [and] recreation.” While the benefits and challenges to different types of infrastructure are summarized in the first section of the report – e.g., dams, hydropower facilities, navigation (ports, locks, and dredging), canals and pipelines, bridges and roads, levees –  climate change is inexplicably not mentioned as being a challenge to infrastructure. Thus, there is no consideration of the consequences of climate change effects on any of this infrastructure (see here for effects to interstate highway bridges). (more…)

New Water and Drought Tools Help Forecast Climate and Security Risks

USGS Mapping Tool_2020By Marc Kodack

Ready, easy access to timely water-related information is a benefit to any community because the information can provide current conditions and/or short-term forecast estimates. The information may provide forewarning to impending conditions that may adversely affect people and/or property. Baseline conditions may also be established from which changes over time can be determined.

The U.S. Geological Survey has released a new mapping tool that shows daily natural water storage for 110,000 sub-regions in the lower 48 states relative to historical conditions for the same time of year. “Natural water storage…includes water present on the landscape such as standing water and water on trees, snowpack, soil water, and shallow groundwater. It does not include water in rivers or deep groundwater.” (more…)

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and New Studies Warn of Climate Change and Water Security

Langhan-Riekhof_2020

Maria Langan-Riekhof, Director of the Strategic Futures Group at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, speaks to the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Hearing: “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition,” December 11, 2019

By Marc Kodack

Concerns about the effects of climate change on security – particularly the way that climate change can exacerbate threats to U.S. interests – have driven several recent U.S. House of Representative hearings. Senior intelligence officials have been at the forefront of these warnings. For example, in recent testimony  by Maria Langan-Riekhof of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (during an extraordinary hearing of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee titled “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition”), she highlighted that water stresses in the Middle East and Central America are increasing, and that these changes will degrade already poor government services, strain communities, and challenge agricultural production. These and other stresses can lead to increased local and regional political, economic, and social instability. (more…)