Blog

Werrell and Femia: A Responsibility to Prepare for Climate Change

In an article published today by the IPI Global Observatory, Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, Managers and Senior Advisors to the IMCCS, and Co-Founders of the Center for Climate and Security, highlight the “Responsibility to Prepare” principle regarding climate change, which rests on the idea that unprecedented climate change risks coupled with society’s foresight about those risks, creates clear responsibility for preventive and preparatory actions that are commensurate to the risk. The article is part of a series that the IPI Global Observatory is publishing in advance of Climate Week in New York (watch this space for more). Click here for the full article.

General Carleton-Smith: British Army Should Develop Non-Fossil Fuel Dependent Vehicles

By Marc Kodack

In an article published today, General Sir Mark Carleton-Smith, Chief of the British General Staff, said the current generation of tactical vehicles may be the last to be powered by fossil fuels. Benefits to ending this dependence on fossil fuels would be logistical, e.g. reduce the logical tail risk, and put the British Army on “the right side of the environmental argument.” He called on British industry to develop the next generation of vehicles that are simultaneously “battle winning but also environmentally sustainable.” Doing so would also assist in influencing the career decisions of future recruits who may consider “prospective employer’s environmental credentials.”

Gen. Middendorp and Bergema: How Climate Change Fuels Violent Extremism

In an article published today on the anniversary of 9/11 by the IPI Global Observatory, General Tom Middendorp, Chair of the IMCCS and former Chief of Defence of the Netherlands, and Reinier Bergema of the International Centre for Counter-Terrorism, highlight the links between climate change, water insecurity, and violent extremism – particularly in “Western, Central, and Eastern Africa, and several countries in the Middle East.” The article is part of an article series that the IPI Global Observatory is publishing in advance of Climate Week in New York (watch this space for more).

Click here for the full article.

Goodman on TRT World: Preventing and Preparing for Devastating Storms

Sherri Goodman, Secretary General of the IMCCS and Senior Strategist with the Center for Climate and Security, recently spoke to TRT World about the effect of climate change on devastating storms such as Hurricane Dorian. She spoke about the the need to both prevent a future of more frequent and intense storms by reducing the scale and scope of climate change, and preparing for these changes through investments in climate resilience. Prevention and preparation will be key to saving more lives in the future, building resilient communities, and bolstering security. Watch the full interview here:

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis: Don’t Get Caught “Flat-Footed” by Climate Change

In a September 5th interview with Andrea Mitchell, former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke about the importance of addressing the security threat of climate change, much as he did while he was Secretary of Defense from 2017-2019. In particular, he addressed skeptical audiences, stating: “why wouldn’t we take out an insurance policy and do prudent steps to make certain the generation that’s coming up is not going to be caught flat-footed by this?” Here’s the clip:

Mogherini Post-EU Defence Meeting: Militaries should help address climate change

On August 29, EU defence ministers met to discuss “the effect of climate change on defence and security,” as part of a two-day meeting covering a range of critical security issues. The meeting, hosted in Helsinki by Finland, who currently holds the rotating Presidency of the Council of the European Union, was chaired by the High Representative of the EU for Foreign Affairs and Security Policy, Federica Mogherini.  In her remarks following the meeting, Mogherini had this to say about the robust climate and defence conversation that occurred.

This morning we discussed two other issues that are particularly important from a strategic point of view for the European Union and that are also in nature global issues that require global and European responses. First of all, the issue of climate change. I think the European Union has been among the first to identify climate change as a security threat, a security challenge, as a security threat multiplier. And we have gone through the different connections – direct and indirect links – between climate change and defence and security issues. Also this we have discussed together with the UN and NATO, because we are looking for synergies in this field and we want to avoid duplication of thinking and reflections in this field. We can put together many of the work strands we, the EU, NATO and the UN, are developing on the links between security and defence and climate change.

In particular, we discussed with the Ministers two issues related to climate change and defence: one is how to make sure that the militaries contribute to address climate change issues, in particular reducing the energy dependency and its carbon footprint and in this way contributing to address climate change effects. That can also be helpful in terms of effectiveness and efficiency of operations on the ground. We also discussed the effect of climate change on conflicts, or on crisis areas that can affect the ways in which militaries could be deployed in these theatres. How can we foresee to adapt our capabilities, our way of working on the ground, in theatres where climate change creates situations that are different from the ones we have today. You can already see the connection present in some areas, in the Sahel for instance or other areas, where the militaries deployed – be they UN, NATO or EU or national militaries – have to face a situation on the ground that is evolving in terms of climate change conditions. We need to adapt our capacity to operate in these theatres.

Read Mogherini’s full remarks here.

Former Supreme Allied Commander: Burning Brazil Threatens Security

In a recent article published by Bloomberg News, Admiral James Stavridis, USN (Ret), former Supreme Allied Commander of NATO and former commander of U.S. Southern Command – the Area of Responsibility (or AOR) that includes Brazil – makes a compelling case for how the fires in the Brazilian rainforest, and its implications for climate change, are a security issue not just for the country and its neighbors, but for the U.S. as well. He includes a quote from Center for Climate and Security Advisory Board member, Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, USN (Ret), stating: ‘As my good friend Denny Ginn, formerly the admiral in charge of all Navy installations, has said, “it’s not a matter of if, only a matter of time” before we have a catastrophic event.’ Read the full article here.

African Union Highlights Security Risks of Climate Change

In a press statement after the 864th meeting of the Peace and Security Council (PSC) of the African Union (which is the organization’s decision-making entity on conflict “prevention, management and resolution”), the PSC highlighted climate change and its effects on security as a significant issue for its member states. The statement focuses on climate change impacts on infrastructure, access to vital resources and the most vulnerable, as well as its exacerbating effects on forced displacement and existing tensions among communities, and called on its member states to advance “adaptation measures with a view to building resilience in the communities facing climate change.” Click here for the full statement.

New Report: Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks

In a new report released by the Council of Canadian Academies’ Expert Panel on Climate Change Risks and Adaptation Potential (with the refreshingly prosaic title “Canada’s Top Climate Change Risks,”) the authors highlight twelve major climate change risks affecting Canada. While all twelve of the identified risks have a relationship with Canada’s national security in one form or another, two stand out in that context: Geopolitical Dynamics and Physical Infrastructure. From Page 11 of the report:

Geopolitical Dynamics: Risks related to geopolitical dynamics affecting Canada, including increased international migration and associated political, social, and economic stresses; increasing political and social conflict over climate-affected resources; heightened geopolitical tensions over Arctic sovereignty and resources; and increasing need for humanitarian assistance and foreign aid due to climate-related crises.

Physical Infrastructure: Risks to physical infrastructure in Canada (e.g., homes, buildings, roads, bridges), including damage from extreme weather events such as heavy precipitation, high winds, and flooding; increased probability of power outages and grid failures; and an increasing risk of cascading infrastructure failures.

Read the full report here.

Climate Change and Megacities: A Dialogue Session

By Dr. Michael Thomas

As the Center for Climate and Security’s Senior Fellow for the Indo-Pacific, I recently participated in a three-day conference hosted by the Hollings Center for International Dialogue that delved into the challenges and opportunities of the world’s megacities. Held in Jakarta, one of the largest megacities in the world, the conference brought together more than 20 experts from around the globe to explore key thematic issues of sustainability, climate and energy resiliency, the food-water nexus, social and governance issues, as well as concepts of rejuvenation and heritage preservation.

As defined by the UN, megacities are urban agglomerations exceeding 10 million inhabitants; currently there are 47 megacities, of which more than 30 are in Asia alone. Since 2007, more people now live in cities than in rural areas, with projections that this will increase to almost 70% by 2050.

An important discussion thread was the janus-faced nature of megacities with regard to climate change.

On the one hand, megacities are possibly one of the largest—if not the largest—‘single’ contributor to global emissions. Case in point, more than 70% of global CO2 emissions are emitted from cities; with NASA describing megacities as the largest human contribution to climate change.

On the other hand, they also serve as global economic engine rooms and centres of innovation that actually drive climate solutions (see Janani Vivekananda and Neil Bhatiya’s 2017 Epicenters Report).

Notwithstanding, the conference brought into sharp relief the specific challenge climate change poses for megacities.

Foremost is the risk to infrastructure due to sea-level rise, inundation, and coastal flooding. In broad terms, a combination of these factors could amount to $1 trillion in infrastructure damages by mid-century under a 0.5m rise scenario.

As is the case, climate change is one of a myriad of issues facing megacities. Using Jakarta as an example, the over-extraction of groundwater combined with sheer weight of that cities built infrastructure is seeing parts of northern Jakarta  sink at up to 15cm per year. Some estimates have 95% of north Jakarta underwater by 2050. In combination with sea-level rise and other factors, there is even talk of relocating the capital. A USD $40 Billion sea-wall known as the National Capital Integrated Coastal Development is also being seriously considered.

Sea-level rise can have a disproportionate impact on megacities located around the equatorial region—not just because of contributions from melting ice and glacial run-off—but also due to the thermal expansion properties of water. Asian megacities are especially at risk in this respect.

Climate change is also disrupting major global climatic systems such as El Nino, Indian Ocean Dipole and Southern Annular Mode; altering rainfall patterns, glacial formation and melt, and monsoon patterns (to name a few). Changes to rainfall patterns in combination with historical drought, heat waves, coastal erosion, flooding, poor land-use practice, salinity, crop failure, and natural disasters are all key factors driving rural to urban migration and contributing to the unimpeded growth of megacities.

A 2018 World Bank report noted that by 2050 more than 140 million people could be forced to migrate as a result of the slow onset of climate change. In megacities, people often locate to slum areas where, despite economic opportunity, life can be fraught with extreme poverty, public health hazards, and human security risks such as trafficking, exploitation, and lack of access to basic water and sanitation services. Mass movement (either internal or transboundary) can also disrupt existing social orders, leading to instability, violence, and (in extremis) warfare and regional chaos.

Syria continues to serve as an unimaginably devastating example of the destruction and misery that can be unleashed once societal breaking points are crossed. Like a climate tipping point, there can often be no return.

The Hollings Center Dialogue Conference shone a much-needed light on some of these issues. It also established a foothold for future dialogue sessions, particularly with regard to advancing our collective understanding of how climate change will impact megacities from a human-security perspective.