The Himalayan Hotspot: Diplomacy Needed to Address Environmental and Climate Security Risks

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By Maya Saidel

Heightened militarization in the Himalayan region has impeded diplomatic and multilateral efforts to tackle critical climate issues endangering one of the world’s biodiversity hotspots. In early June, at least 20 soldiers perished in a historic clash between Indian and Chinese troops along the disputed Himalayan border in Ladakh. This confrontation is the most recent deadly episode in a long history of border disputes between the two countries. The Line of Actual Control (LAC) demarcation, intended to designate which country controlls specific territory, was established after the Sino-Indian War in 1962. Yet, according to The Indian Express, efforts to clarify the exact location of the LAC in the Ladakh region have “effectively stalled since 2002.”  

Ocean Blues or a Bright Blue Future?

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The national security cutter USCGC Bertholf the Arctic Ocean Sept. 14, 2012, during Arctic Shield 2012 (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Public Affairs Specialist 1st Class Timothy Tamargo/Released)

By Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (ret.) and Annabelle Leahy

The pandemic of Covid-19 has tremendous and largely unknown implications for global health, security, and economic prosperity, but as we work diligently to steer the future toward positive outcomes, we must not lose track of the growing challenges and opportunities that continually unfold with another well-known but not well-understood global phenomenon — the ocean.

The ocean and its resources are inextricably tied to human health, the economy, and security. The link between the environment, particularly the ocean, and human health, is an area of increasing global importance as climate change increases the incidence of toxin release from harmful algal blooms, damage from catastrophic weather events, and potential for contagion from waterborne viruses and bacteria. These threats are not just related to health but also to security. Climate change is a core systemic risk to the 21st century world, and we must specifically address the ocean in this discussion. 

The Center for Climate and Security Seeks to Hire a Deputy Director

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The Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) seeks to hire a Deputy Director for its Center for Climate and Security (CCS). This is an exciting growth opportunity for the right candidate. CSR seeks candidates with the vision and potential needed to become a true leader in national and international security. The Deputy Director will have the opportunity to become a leading voice on the intersection of climate and security, a field of rapidly-growing importance and rising relevance in security affairs. See the full job description below, and apply at this link.

The Future of Research on Climate Change and Armed Conflict

By Dr. Marc Kodack

As military planners look out to future operating environments that they may face, they need to continue to anticipate the changing social, environmental, political, and economic conditions that populations may experience when these populations are increasingly affected by climate change. Climate change will dynamically influence many societal variables including migrationfood security, and conflict. Planners may be particularly drawn to the causes of conflict. Mach et. al (2020) present four areas of future research that would assist planners with better understanding the relationship between climate change and armed conflict.

Online Event | Burning Sand: MENA and Climate Change

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This is a cross-post from the Cambridge Middle East and North Africa Forum.

Written By Patrik Kurath

https://zoom.us/j/91788674458
Meeting ID: 917 8867 4458

By the end of the century, the Persian Gulf could be too hot for human habitation. Water sources like the Golan Heights and the Nile are sources of tensions. With the effects of climate change only set to grow in the coming of years, what are the consequences for the region? With implications on security, migration, and local economies, a change is necessary but remains unclear. While countries like Morocco are embracing solar energy, Saudi Arabia continues to rely on oil. To find out and discuss what this all means, join us on Tuesday 8 September at 4 pm (UK time) to hear our panel of experts discuss the ramifications and possible solutions to this multi-decade challenge.

RELEASE: As ASEAN Meets on Disaster Relief, New Report from Military Analysts Urges Indo-Asia Pacific Leaders to Make Climate Change a “Security Priority”

Washington, DC, August 12, 2020 – As ASEAN convenes the 13th Meeting of its Joint Task Force on Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief, the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) released a new report urging leaders to make climate change a “security priority” in the Indo-Asia Pacific. The IMCCS is a group of senior military leaders, security experts, and security institutions across the globe – currently hailing from 38 countries in every hemisphere – dedicated to anticipating, analyzing, and addressing the security risks of a changing climate.

The emergence and ongoing consequences of COVID-19 have exposed serious societal vulnerabilities, even in wealthy nations, and demonstrated that foreseeable crises can have severe social, economic, political and security consequences. Furthermore, the COVID-19 crisis is a wake-up call for using science as a basis for risk management. Likewise, climate science should be incorporated into security policy and planning to avoid worst outcomes. This is according to the new report by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS), titled “Climate and Security in the Indo-Asia Pacific.” The report, which is part of the World Climate and Security Report 2020 Briefer Series, articulates six main points.

  • Addressing the root causes of climate change should be a security priority for the region. Addressing the root causes of climate-related security threats, including by considering the full scope of implications of fossil fuel energy investments on national interests and national security, can support regional stability in a changing world. Significantly reducing greenhouse gas emissions in the region should therefore be a security priority for the region.
  • Climate change should be higher on the regional security agenda. Though the Indo-Asia Pacific is one of the regions most vulnerable to climate impacts, the security dimensions of climate change are not high on the agenda in policy circles. It is the most disaster-prone part of the world; food and water security are vulnerable to climate impacts; its population and economic infrastructure are concentrated on the coasts and vulnerable to storms and sea level rise.
  • Climate change is worsening underlying security tensions in the region. In a region where geostrategic competition, inter- and intra-state tensions and violent unrest have increased, the report finds that climate change-related stressors including changing river flows, migrating fish stocks, extreme weather and sea level rise could erode coping capacities, increase grievances, worsen underlying tensions and fragilities, overwhelm state capacities and degrade the security environment, if not managed effectively.
  • Many security dynamics in the region are highly sensitive to climate change. Some of the region’s security dynamics are particularly sensitive to climate impacts, e.g. sea level rise and military buildup on contested features in the South China Sea; interstate tensions expressed through (and exacerbated by) transboundary water management disputes; confrontations over fishing driven by declining yields (due to overfishing and pollution as well as climate-driven ocean warming and acidification); and eroding livelihoods potentially driving more piracy and serious organized crime.
  • Foreseeable security challenges related to climate change underly a regional Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent. Security communities in the Indo-Asia Pacific have a responsibility to prepare for and prevent these foreseeable security challenges, alongside development and diplomatic actors, the authors find.  This includes supporting climate resilience by strengthening military capacities for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief operations, and improving responses to climate threats by supporting long-range planning within government.  
  • Better coordination between security communities is critical for combating climate-related security threats. Better coordination and networking among the international security community working to address climate-related threats, such as through the International Military Council on Climate and Security, can facilitate information exchange and sharing lessons learned. This includes sharing the world-leading expertise of Indo-Asia Pacific militaries in responding to climate-driven disasters.

The IMCCS Secretary General, the Honorable Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security and former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, stated:

“Climate change acts as a threat multiplier, increasing security threats across the Indo-Pacific region, from increasingly devastating storms and sea level rise, to migrating fish stocks compromising the region’s food security.  The region’s megacities are at particular risk, which will only intensify with high temperatures and warmer waters.  Now is the time for “climate-proofing” measures, from incorporating climate security risks into foreign and defense policies in the region, to strengthening capacities for Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief.  Security organizations should work together with diplomatic, development and disaster response agencies to coordinate preparedness, planning and response.”

In highlighting the key findings of the report, General Tom Middendorp, Chair of the IMCCS and former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands, said:

“The COVID-19 crisis has showed us how vulnerable we are to changes in our environment. We can’t hide from them behind our national boundaries and we have to address them collectively. The crisis also taught us what happens if we let time slip through our fingers; the longer we wait to prepare and to respond, the more severe the consequences will be. To me, COVID-19 is a prelude of the disruptions we can expect from our changing climate. This unprecedented report clearly outlines how climate change is already affecting the security situation in the Indo-Asia Pacific region and what the future security risks are. It’s not often that we have such foresight of future security threats. We have a responsibility to be prepared, to build resilience and to not let time slip through our fingers.”

Senior Participant in the International Military Council on Climate and Security, Colonel Sapenafa K. Motufaga, Military and Police Adviser to the Permanent Mission of Fiji to the United Nations, noted:

“Fiji’s Prime Minister has stated that the climate crisis means ‘The fight for our very survival.’ These threats to Pacific Islands and across Asia make climate change a critical issue for the international community to pay attention to.”

Senior Participant in the International Military Council on Climate and Security, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, US Navy (Ret), also weighed in: “Military and intelligence leaders have consistently warned that foreseeable threats like pandemics and climate change can cause major national security disruptions. Covid-19 shows why we should pay attention to these threats, manage risks based on the science and act decisively before situations spiral out of control. The security landscape in the Indo-Asia Pacific is getting more complicated, just as climate change impacts on this dynamic. Clearly, these dangers need to be minimized through smart investments in sustainability and sound policy decisions to preserve regional stability and enhanced prosperity.”

Read the “Climate and Security in the Indo-Asia Pacific” report: Here

Direct inquiries to:  Francesco Femia, ffemia at csrisks dot org

More resources:

Event: Center for Climate and Security Director to Speak to U.S. Congress Today on Climate Change Threats

UPDATE (7/15/2020): A recorded video of the event can now be found here.

At 3pm EST today, the Center for Climate and Security’s Director, the Hon. John Conger, will speak to the U.S. House Democratic Caucus National Security Task Force about climate change threats to security, in the wake of a new report from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Mr. Conger’s comments will build from two major publications from the Center for Climate and Security that influenced the select committee’s work. The first, titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change,” highlights the potentially severe-to-catastrophic security threats of climate change even at plausible lower emissions scenarios, and the second, titled “A Climate Security Plan for America: A Presidential Plan for Combating the Security Risks of Climate Change,” proposes a comprehensive federal plan for addressing climate security threats, in terms of both prevention/ mitigation and preparation/ adaptation. Click here for the livestream, once the event begins.

The New Water Development Report and Implications for Security

By 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.

New Study: Increased Risk of Armed Conflict Onset After Climate Related Disasters

By Dr. Marc Kodack

Over the past decade, understanding of the relationship between natural disasters, climate change and conflict has increased significantly. The Center for Climate and Security has been exploring case studies of this relationship since 2012, and four years ago, a major study of global datasets found that the “risk of armed-conflict outbreak is enhanced by climate-related disaster occurrence in ethnically fractionalized countries.”

The most recent addition to this growing body of literature is Tobias Ide and his colleagues (2020), who have presented the first multi-method study of climate-related disasters and conflict. They investigate the nature of the pathways connecting these disasters to conflict, as well as the contextual factors. Overall, the authors find that there is “an increased risk of armed conflict onset immediately after climate related disasters.” That’s a significant finding, though the relationship is not a generic one.

The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent: The Urgent Need For a Climate-Security Governance Architecture

This article was first published on AsiaGlobal Online (April 29, 2020)

By Rachel Fleishman

Today’s international security and governance architecture was born of the post-World War II period, when a conflict-weary world sought to prevent another clash of nation-state alliances drawn into battle by the expansionist actions of a few. Yet many modern security challenges do not fit neatly into postwar constructs, arguesRachel Fleishman of the Center for Climate and Security. Pandemics, mass migration and environmental degradation – and, most prominently, climate change – defy national borders and the world must prepare for concerted, coordinated action to prevent predictable cross-border threats.