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.
This first-of-its-kind report focuses on Latin America’s largest and most populous nation and finds that Brazil is not adequately prepared for the impacts of foreseeable climate change-related stressors on its security, economy, natural resource base, and critical national infrastructure, most especially its hydro-electricity plants and military facilities. It provides an analysis of not only the potentially catastrophic security consequences of resurgent and record-setting illegal deforestation (and associated carbon emissions), but also forecasts the likely impacts of climate change trends such as sea level rise, and precipitation variability on Brazil’s national security. The report recommends that the Brazilian security community incorporate climate science into its assessments and strategic planning processes to both mitigate, and prepare for, worst case outcomes, and that Brazil recommit to its previously leading role on counter-deforestation.
The report, which is part of the World Climate and Security Report 2020 Briefer Series, articulates five main points.
- An at-risk Amazon biome puts Brazil’s security at risk. Due to its extensive coastline (the longest Atlantic coastline in the world), and a vast but increasingly deforested Amazon biome, millions of Brazilians are at risk to sea level rise and the ecological fallout of deforestation respectively. These and other trends, to include population growth in natural disaster prone regions, increase the likelihood of severe natural disasters that outstrip the coping and response capacities of civilian agencies. The Brazilian security community should not only prepare for a future where its services will be increasingly called upon to deliver life saving services to populations in extremis, but also prepare to play a strong supporting role in counter-deforestation efforts.
- Brazil’s water and energy sectors are already being impacted. Though Brazil’s energy mix is “green energy” dominant (over 70%), the nation’s dependence on river flows and reservoirs for hydro-electricity production may become its Achilles’ heel should the processes that drive these systems become disrupted by non-traditional rain patterns driven by climate change. Should hydro-electricity plants significantly under-perform while demand for electricity grows, significant multi-sectoral disruptions could occur, undermining human security and law and order.
- Climate change and counter-deforestation should be much higher on Brazil’s security agenda. Brazil’s progress in the next two decades will be constrained by severe economic and security pressures exacerbated by climate-driven resource scarcities and deforestation. Should ongoing economic contraction merge with trends such as protracted droughts, hydro-electricity interruptions, and political instability, then crisis scenarios requiring military forces to augment overwhelmed emergency management agencies may ensue with likely problematic consequences. In this context, it is in Brazil’s strategic and security interests to return to its world-leading policy on counter-deforestation to reduce the scale and scope of climate change and environmental degradation, and to also prepare for scenarios where severe resource scarcities lead to a breakdown in security. In short, Brazil needs to “climate-proof” its security.
- The Brazilian security community can play a pivotal role. In coordination with civilian institutions, Brazilian security institutions have a responsibility to prepare for, and prevent, these foreseeable security challenges. This includes supporting climate resilience by not only better preparing military infrastructure to withstand trends such as sea level rise, but also strengthening military capacities for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations.
- Better coordination between security communities is critical for combating climate-related security threats. The Brazilian security community should leverage the information-sharing and networking already occurring among international security community organizations working to address climate-related threats. The International Military Council on Climate and Security can facilitate information exchange and share lessons learned between Brazilian security organizations and other defense organizations across the world, to foster a common understanding of the threats and opportunities as they relate to climate change and its security consequences.
The Honorable Sherri Goodman, IMCCS Secretary General, Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security, and former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense, noted:
“Climate change is both an existential risk to all societies and a matter of human and national security. Brazil faces a host of developmental challenges recently worsened by the Covid-19 pandemic – a phenomenon that continues to disproportionately impact the nation’s most vulnerable communities. Environmental degradation (most specifically record-setting deforestation), along with new regional climate change dynamics, will compound pandemic consequences and slow Brazil’s recovery efforts. As this important IMCCS Brazil report finds, protracted droughts that severely affect agrarian states and megacities alike, may become a new normal as non-traditional rain patterns disrupt water and hydro-electricity supplies. Using the unprecedented foresight available through strategic analyses and data science, Brazil should assess its climate change risks (including risks to Brazil’s strategic, regional and international interests) and develop national plans to address the range of threats climate change poses to its human and national security. It is in Brazil’s interest to climate-proof the nation.”
General Tom Middendorp, Chief of Defence of the Netherlands (Ret), Chair of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).
“Brazil faces extraordinary risks to its development and security due to climate change. The IMCCS “Climate and Security in Brazil” report does a superb job in outlining these risks and provides well informed analyses that can serve as a starting point for formulating mitigation and adaptation strategies. Above all else, the report issues a clarion call for the Brazilian security community to climate-proof its security – starting with assessing how climate change, and the direct and collateral damage caused by surging illegal deforestation, will impact its missions and the facilities that enable its operations. It is the belief of the IMCCS that through a disciplined approach to this challenge, the Brazilian security community can be a constructive actor in support of a whole-of-society approach to addressing the climate and environmental challenges.”
Francesco Femia, Director of the IMCCS and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security and the Council on Strategic Risks, stated:
“If the current Brazilian leadership does not fully believe in the altruism of protecting the Amazon, this report from the International Military Council on Climate and Security demonstrates that protecting the Amazon is clearly in Brazil’s security interest, both in terms of national and regional security, and its standing as a leading power in the world. The message to Brazil is clear: Halt deforestation, and recommit to reversing the scale and scope of climate change, or the security consequences for Brazil will be severe and potentially catastrophic. In short, Brazil needs to climate-proof its security.”
Lieutenant Commander Oliver-Leighton Barrett, United States Navy (Retired), Senior Research Fellow at the Center for Climate and Security, and the IMCCS Americas Liaison, stated:
“Scientists and security experts alike are united in their concern for the Amazon’s well-being. In 2020 deforestation and forest fire rates in some regions were record setting, spiking concerns that the Amazon might soon reach a tipping point. This report highlights how lax land use policies; weakened environmental enforcement organizations, and a president that has publicly advocated for deforestation as a prerequisite to development, have contributed to creating a permissive environment for a rampant deforestation that threatens Brazilian and international security. Today, Brazil is at an inflection point with regards to its environmental security and the human, national and international security that the ecology undergirds. We hope that the current administration will not only return Brazil to its once responsible path on environmental and climate change imperatives, but will demonstrate to its regional neighbors, and the world, that development does not have to come at the expense of the environment, or at the expense of security. It’s time for Brazil to climate-proof its security.”
Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs, The Center for Climate and Security, stated:
“Protecting the Amazon forest is protecting Brazil’s national security. The forest drives water cycles that power Brazil’s electricity and water supplies, and the country’s economy, human security and national security depend on stopping deforestation from reaching a tipping point that permanently destroys the Amazon – and the global climate system. Enforcing the rule of law across the country, including through strong counter-deforestation measures, will also push back against the serious organized crime networks that pose the most immediate threat to Brazil’s national security.”
Direct inquiries to: Francesco Femia, ffemia at csrisks dot org
· World Climate and Security Report 2020 by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate Change
· The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent: A Climate Security Governance Framework for the 21st Century by Caitlin Werrell and Francesco Femia, the Council on Strategic Risks