Femia on TRT World: The Strategic Benefit of Acting on Climate and Security

In an interview segment released yesterday by TRT World, Turkey’s international news channel, Francesco Femia, Manager and Senior Advisor of the IMCCS and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security, spoke with host Ghida Fakhry and WRI’s Rebecca Carter about the increasing evidence of a connection between climate change and conflict, the  growing bipartisan consensus in the United States about the security risks of climate change, and the idea of action on climate and security as a strategic benefit for countries that wish to expand their leadership and influence.  The interview begins at 17:45, below.

South Pacific Defence Ministers: Defence Organizations Must Be Ready for Climate Change

In case you missed it: The South Pacific Defense Ministers’ Meeting (SPDMM) issued two important products in May demonstrating heightened concern about the defense implications of climate change among regional militaries. This includes:

  1. A Joint Communiqué from the SPDMM, as represented by Australia, Chile, Fiji, France, New Zealand, Papua New Guinea and Tonga
  2. A report commissioned by the 2017 SPDMM, titled “Implications of Climate Change on Defence and Security in the South Pacific by 2030,” coordinated by the Observatory on Defence and Climate at the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs (IRIS) – a core member of the IMCCS Leadership Consortium.

The communiqué is an admirably robust one, with point number 9, for example, stating:

We acknowledge the 2018 Boe Declaration’s affirmation that “climate change presents the single greatest threat to the livelihood, security and wellbeing of Pacific peoples” and recognised climate change as a challenge for which regional defence organisations must be ready.

The Executive Summary of the commissioned report notes, among other key findings:

There is no doubt that climate change will remain a significant security challenge to the Pacific region in the coming decades. While some see climate change as a security concern in its own right, it can be viewed as a risk multiplier in the Pacific— climate change exacerbates and complicates state fragility, conflict dynamics, economic vulnerability and threatens many aspects of human security (McPherson, 2017).

Both are worth a full read.

Briefer: Latin America, Climate Change, Security and the Role of Regional Militaries

By Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, U.S. Navy (Retired), IMCCS Americas Liaison

The Center for Climate and Security published several analyses this year explaining how climate dynamics have contributed to migration crises emanating from the Northern Triangle (i.e. Honduras, El Salvador and Guatemala) and Venezuela. See here and here. These crises continue to affect neighboring states, especially states that vulnerable populations perceive as offering greener pastures. Though the ways in which environmental trends affect at-risk populations is well known, how these trends affect national stability and security is largely underappreciated and under-discussed. More specifically, how climate-related trends might disrupt military capabilities and facilities, including military training ranges and bases, within contexts increasingly defined by the fallout of climate related/driven crises, has yet to fully permeate military thought and strategic planning. This article briefly explores the climate – security linkages within the Latin American context, and discusses what regional militaries need to do to stay ahead of strategic risks that put their effectiveness at risk.

To read the full briefer, click here.

New Zealand Defence Plan Includes Entire Chapter on the Climate Crisis

In what is one of the most robust treatments of climate change in any current defense plan, the New Zealand Ministry of Defence’s Defense Capability Plan 2019, released on June 11, includes an entire chapter devoted to addressing climate change. The Plan, according to the New Zealand Defence Force (NZDF) website, “sets out the Government’s indicative planned investments in the New Zealand Defence Force” and “covers all capability investments out to 2030, and signals investments following 2030 that will be assessed through the next Defence White Paper in 2022.”

Chapter Five, titled “Responding to the Climate Crisis,” can be found on page 17, and refers back to last year’s “Climate Crisis: Defense Readiness and Responsibilities”  assessment from the New Zealand Ministry of Defence, which indicated a major increase in attention to the security risks of climate change from the Kiwi military.

Among other items, the chapter highlights some key defense-related implications of climate change, including:

100.1 An increase in the number of humanitarian
assistance and disaster relief operations;

100.2 An increased likelihood of stability
operations; and

100.3 A larger number of search and rescue missions
occurring across a broader geographical area.

Click here for the full plan.

Top 10 Most Climate-Vulnerable Military Bases According to U.S. Armed Forces

By John Conger

In 2017, the U.S. Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a list of the installations in each military service that were most vulnerable to climate change.  They gave DoD a year to do this work, as it wasn’t simple.  The DoD would need to look across its enterprise, and determine how it would measure vulnerability and assess which risks were specifically from climate change.  At the Center for Climate and Security, we published a briefer on the factors they might consider.

In early 2019, the DoD report was submitted to Congress, but it omitted the requested prioritization and had other puzzling gaps as well.  It omitted the Marine Corps.  It left out all non-US bases.  It didn’t respond to Congressional questions about mitigation and cost.  Instead, it included a list of 79 bases that the Department determined were its most critical, and then did a rudimentary assessment of the threat from climate change without prioritization.  Congress then directed them to go back and redo the work.

In April, the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD) submitted an addendum that prioritized the 79 installations previously submitted by ascribing values to various climate impacts, but including no scale or measure within each.  In other words, you were either vulnerable to flooding or not. That was the extent of the analysis.  Nonetheless, the DoD developed three prioritized lists (again omitting the Marine Corps) based on that exercise.  Congress again expressed dissatisfaction with the approach and went straight to the individual Services, asking each of them for their own lists.

The Air Force list was revealed by the media earlier, and we did a side-by-side evaluation of the OSD list for the AF and their own list.

Now, each of the services has submitted a list to Congress, and we’ll do similar side-by-sides in the coming days.  Until then, here are the climate-vulnerable base lists from each of the services which were sent to Congress yesterday, and published for the first time on our site:

A few early observations:

The Marine Corps list is entirely new.  Previously, OSD didn’t submit a Marine Corps list, which was a major gap in the initial report.  Also of note, the Marine Corps list is the only one that didn’t confine itself to domestic bases.

The Army list is focused not on flooding and sea-level rise, but on desertification, drought and risk of wildfire.

The Navy list looks much the same as the OSD version, but it’s notable that the Navy submitted more than ten bases.  In general, it’s good to remember that each of these lists is intended to be the bases most at risk, but it doesn’t mean that other bases aren’t at risk as well.

More to come.

Jamie Shea on the Climate and Security Podcast

In the latest episode of The Climate and Security Podcast, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty talks to Jamie Shea, Secretary General of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change, and former Deputy Assistant Secretary General for Emerging Security Challenges at NATO. Shea discusses how climate change is happening faster than initially predicted and what this acceleration means for global security. He describes the tensions between climate change mitigation and adaptation in terms of resource allocation and prioritization and how both must occur simultaneously. Jamie provides global security policy insight that only someone who has had a 39-year long career at NATO can provide. Enjoy this informative and unique global perspective from Jamie Shea!

The Center for Climate and Security’s video podcast takes climate change out of its environmental box, and brings it to the big kid’s table of national and international security. Featuring a series of exclusive dialogues with leading security, military and international affairs experts, the podcast explores our responsibility to prepare for a rapidly-changing world.

Subscribe to the Center for Climate and Security’s YouTube channel to never miss an episode! Or listen to the audio version on iTunes or Stitcher, and subscribe now to get real-time updates. If you’re one of those already subscribed on iTunes, we always welcome your ratings and reviews, as this helps us get the podcast out there to more listeners!

IMCCS Engages EU Security Community on Climate Security

This article is a cross-post from the Planetary Security Initiative on May 16, 2019.

This week climate-related security issues were prominently discussed in Brussels. Luxembourg Minister of Defense François Bausch addressed the topic in a meeting with his counterparts in the Foreign Affairs Council. This Council, which is composed of Ministers from EU Member States, brought together Ministers of Foreign Affairs and Defense in a so-called joined session format. They were joined by their counterparts from the G5 Sahel and its Secretary General. The EU reiterated its commitment to the region and its willingness to increase its engagement in the future. Defense Minister Bausch stressed that the deployment of soldiers alone could not provide a durable solution and that other means of crisis management are necessary and have come rather short in the past. Later in the afternoon the minister briefed the Council about the catastrophic consequences of climate change and its implications for security and defense policy. The Sahel is a region which is highly vulnerable and security impacts related to climate change are already visible, as is also outlined in various PSI activities on Mali, Lake Chad and other parts of the Sahel. The Minister from Luxembourg proposed placing climate-security on the official agenda of the Defence Ministers meeting in the EU Council to consolidate the European commitment to this topic.

On the sidelines of the Council meeting François Bausch had a working meeting with the Netherlands Minister of Defense Ank Bijleveld and the Director of the European Defense Agency Jorge Domecq. They discussed to join forces in analysing what a Europese defence policy strategy on the security dimension of climate change should entail. Climate security is not a new topic for the European Union. Earlier this year, EU Foreign and Defense Ministers underscored that climate change acts as a global threat multiplier and increasingly as a threat in its own right, reacting to the stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report. The challenge now is to translate this to action in the field of early warning and geopolitical analysis, capabilities to respond to weather-related disasters, situational risks assessments during the implementation of missions, and the resource and carbon footprint of military activities.

The next day General Tom Middendorp (Ret.), Chair of the newly established International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), gave presentations on the security dimension of climate change in the EU Military Committee and the EU Political & Security Committee, in addition to meetings with some of the most senior military representatives based in Brussels. He outlined how climate change, compared with resource stress and population growth leads inter alia to humanitarian disasters, (local) resource disputes and additional migration. This calls for more and other intelligence on conflict risks and its root causes, an increased need to protect key infrastructures, additional calls for border protection and disaster relief. At the same time military organisations can make a huge contribution to addressing climate change and natural resource stress by innovation of technology and materials used at home and at mission, which is attractive to them since it often reduces the high costs and risks of logistics connected to military activities. He invited experts and officials from the EU institutions and EU member states to join the new international network that aims to anticipate, analyze and address the security dimension of climate change, and how military organisations can prepare for and respond to it. He was accompanied by Louise van Schaik, Head of Unit at the Clingendael Institute, who published earlier on how the EU could prepare for climate-related security risks and which instruments the EU could consider for the cases of Iraq and Mali.  

On the sidelines of the council meeting François Bausch had working interviews with the Netherlands Defense Minister Ank Bijleveld-Schouten and the Director of the European Defense Agency Jorge Domecq. The Minister again tackled the issue of climate change and the implications for security and defense policy. Climate security is not a new topic for the European Union. In light of the stark findings of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) special report EU Foreign and Defense Ministers underscored earlier this year, that climate change acts as a global threat multiplier and increasingly as a threat in its own right.

Middendorp Committee
Chairman of the IMCCS, General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Netherlands (Ret), informs the EU Military Committee, and its Chairman, General Claudio Graziano, about climate change-related security issues, and invites experts and officials to join the IMCCS.

The afternoon before, during a meeting of the Brussels Dialogue on Climate Diplomacy at the Permanent Representation of the Netherlands to the European Union, General Middendorp was joined by Shiloh Fetzek and Tobias von Lossow in a panel moderated by Alexander Verbeek, Policy Director at EDRC. Ms. Fetzek spoke about her experiences with elevating Climate and Security in the work of policy makers in the U.S. Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Next week she will travel to Wellington, New Zealand to join the 2019 Pacific Environmental Security Forum co-hosted by the U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and the New Zealand Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade under the theme: “Building Resilience in the Pacific”. Tobias von Lossow, Research Fellow at the Clingendael Institute, addressed recent Climate and Security Developments in the PSI spotlight regions Iraq and Mali. He specifically focused on the relationship and inter-linkages of climate change adaptation measures, central to the defense sector, and the conflict and security situation in these cases. He gave an update of recent events in Iraq and Mali (see also our coverage here and here) which underlined how precarious the security situation is on the ground and illustrated their connection to natural resource stress in these countries.