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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

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RELEASE: New Report from Military Leaders Urges Brazil to Make Climate Change and Counter-Deforestation a “Security Priority”

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Washington, DC, November, 30 2020 –  The Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) released a new report today urging Brazilian leaders to make climate change and counter-deforestation a “security priority,” and to “climate-proof” the nation’s security. 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 IMCCS is administered by the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, with the participation of a consortium of international partners. 

How to Prioritize Climate Change in U.S. National Security

By Kate Guy

From the outset of Joe Biden’s run for the American presidency, he pledged to look at national security with fresh eyes. Evolving systemic threats like climate change, often relegated to the portfolios of environmental experts and science agencies, were repeatedly mentioned in his plans to remake U.S. defense and foreign policy. “Climate change is the existential threat to humanity,” he often reiterated in the closing days of his campaign.

Now, with the first members of President-elect Biden’s national security team announced, it’s clear that he has taken the first steps to make good on these campaign promises. In the past few years, nominees like Blinken, Sullivan, and Haines have each referenced the need for the U.S. to prioritize addressing climate change in its approach to global challenges. And with the creation of a cabinet-level Presidential Climate Envoy, long-time climate security leader John Kerry will sit in every meeting of the National Security Council with his eye trained on climate threats.

A Very Strong Signal: 5 Key Takeaways on John Kerry’s U.S. Climate Envoy Role and Seat on the National Security Council

By John Conger, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell

On Monday, U.S. President-Elect Biden announced several members of his national security team.  They included Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security, Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations Ambassador, Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor, and… former Secretary of State John Kerry as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. While each of these announcements have positive implications for how climate change is addressed by the national security enterprise, let’s explore five key implications of this last announcement. 

U.S. Department of Defense: Funding Available for Environmental Research and Development

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ALEXANDRIA, VA, November 4, 2020—The Department of Defense’s (DoD) Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) is seeking to fund environmental research and development in the Resource Conservation and Resiliency program area.  SERDP invests across the broad spectrum of basic and applied research, as well as advanced technology development.  The development and application of innovative environmental technologies will reduce the costs, environmental risks, and time required to resolve environmental problems while, at the same time, enhancing and sustaining military readiness.

The UN Security Council’s Lack of Consensus on Climate and Security

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By Dr. Marc Kodack

While climate change and its implications for security have been acknowledged many times by international military leaders (see here for example), as well as by senior leaders in the U.S. Department of Defense (here), the United National Security Council (UNSC) has only addressed the issue in fits and starts thus far, despite the institution’s global charge to maintain international peace and security (here). One reason for this is the individualized lens that each member country uses to assess climate change and its effect on their own security, as well as others. This creates a barrier to a consensus on what the UNSC’s general agenda should be on climate change despite individual resolutions that single out specific areas or states where climate change and its effects on security, e.g., food insecurity, are mentioned and addressed (see here and here). Other U.N. organizations have readily embraced climate change and security within their programs (here).

Climate Change Adversely Affecting Aircraft Performance in Greece: Implications for Militaries?

By Dr. Marc Kodack

The deleterious effects of high temperatures and humidity on the performance of aircraft are exacerbated in many places around the world under climate change. Last year, in a Center for Climate and Security briefer, these effects were discussed for both rotary and fixed wing aircraft. They include reductions in take-off weight because of reduced lift and, longer take-off and landing distances. The result will be that military operations will be at higher risk of disruption or outright failure, particularly in those locations where longer over-water distances need to be traversed. Complementing the briefer is a recent study by Gratton et al. (2020) that collected and analyzed climate change effects on the operation of two types of commercial, civilian aircraft that are commonly used at Greek airports.

The U.S. Military’s Global Supply Chain Threatened by Climate Change

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By Dr. Marc Kodack

Supply chains are the less visible parts of many large, global companies, such as Apple, Toyota, and Boeing. For each of these companies, their many suppliers incrementally provide parts that are eventually assembled into finished products, whether they are hand-held smartphones or part of vehicles that transport a few or many people. Disruptions to suppliers can have devastating effects on the ability of a company to complete finished products. The most recent example of this are the shortages in personal protective equipment, e.g., masks, surgical gowns, and face shields, for health-care workers involved in responding to the COVID-19 pandemic. For the Department of Defense (DoD), disruptions to its global supply chain, particularly those suppliers involved in mission-critical products and services, will degrade DoD’s ability to respond when it is called upon. When these disruptions are caused or influenced by climate change, supply chain management under climate change becomes a strategic vulnerability. The probability of a disruption to one or more critical suppliers is never-ending, given their number and dispersed locations around the globe.

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.