Survey of Security Experts Warns of Potentially Catastrophic Climate Threats in the Next 20 Years

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By Kate Guy

Urgent climate risks are impacting our world today in profound ways, as leaders from the United States and 40 other countries will discuss in the virtual Leaders Summit on Climate later this week. Climate change is no longer a “future” risk that will strike decades from now, but one that is already actively shaping the security landscape for all countries. These risks are now on track to increase significantly in response to the Earth’s continued warming trajectory, and will require new investments in resilience to keep communities safe. Forecasting surveys offer one tool for security actors to plan for this changing–and increasingly dangerous–future. 

For the second year in a row, the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS Expert Group) surveyed top climate security experts on their predictions of how and when climate security risks are likely to progress (see last year’s survey here). Their responses offer insightful opinions about which risks this expert community deems the most likely to disrupt security in the years ahead, as well as how these security threats may interact with each other. 

Report Highlight: Climate Security and the Strategic Energy Pathway in South Asia

By Sarang Shidore, Rachel Fleishman and Dr. Marc Kodack

Climate change is not just an environmental issue in South Asia; it is also a major security concern. When overlaid with pre-existing domestic distress and inter-state rivalries that roil the region, it could well act as a tipping point that triggers or magnifies violent conflict. But appropriate policy responses, including institution-building, data-sharing and embracing a rapid low-carbon pathway, provide a way forward. 

These are some of the conclusions we reached in a recent report published by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security titled “Climate Security and the Strategic Energy Pathway in South Asia.” The report examines the impact of climate change in three areas – the India-Pakistan rivalry, the China-India rivalry and within domestic security arenas in South Asia. 

Climate Security: A Growing Military Concern That Policymakers Should Heed

Abandoned vessels on the South China Sea: Vietnam and the Philippines have called out China for using seafaring militias to attack fishing boats that Beijing claims are violating its territory (Credit: Trey Ratcliff)

This is a cross-posted excerpt from AsiaGlobal Online

By Rachel Fleishman, Shiloh Fetzek, Andrea Rezzonico, Sarang Shidore

Climate change is not news in Asia: Storms, floods, heat and wildfires regularly dominate headlines. Less appreciated, however, is how climate affects national and regional security – and the need for defense, foreign affairs and energy policymakers to unite with coordinated, systemic responses to prevent the worst outcomes. The authors of two reports on climate security challenges in South Asia and Southeast Asia by the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security in Washington, DC, highlight their key findings.

Read the full article at AsiaGlobal Online.

RELEASE: New Report Calls on Canada to Create a “Climate Security Plan” to Combat Security Threats of Climate Change

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Washington, D.C., February 16, 2021 — The Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, released a new report today entitled “A Climate Security Plan for Canada.” This report looks at the challenges of climate change through the frames of Canada’s existing security and climate strategies, recommending that Canada develop a comprehensive plan, coordinated within its federal agencies, to proactively address the security threats and risks posed by climate change.

“Unlike the United States, Canada already has a mature climate strategy, but security threats and responses to those threats can be better integrated into that strategy,” said John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security and a co-author of the report.  “And while its security strategy recognizes climate change issues, those threats can be addressed in a more holistic way.  The two strategies need to be knitted together to create a coherent climate security strategy.”

“Canada is keenly aware of how climate change is increasing security threats in the Arctic, and has focused its national security establishment – and all of its Arctic policies – on addressing those threats. Climate change will affect Canadian security interests across the board, domestically and internationally, from more disasters to instability and conflict risk. This plan sets out how the Government of Canada can meet these threats,” said Shiloh Fetzek, Senior Fellow for International Affairs at the Center for Climate and Security and a co-author of the report.

RELEASE: International Military Council Issues Reports Urging Action to Drastically Reduce Emissions and Prepare for Escalating Climate Risks in Asia

Washington, D.C. Feb 3, 2021 — Today, the Expert Group of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS) released two new reports, one on South Asia and the other on Southeast Asia, warning that climate change is threatening stability and security in the region, and calling for urgent action to both drastically reduce carbon emissions and prevent climate security risks

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. The two new reports complement two previously released documents, The World Climate and Security Report 2020 and Climate and Security in the Indo-Asia Pacific, with an added emphasis on the energy-climate-security nexus. 

RELEASE: New Report by Security Experts Warns of “Great Power Conflict” Potential in Arctic if Climate Change Uncurbed

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Washington DC, January 27, 2021 — A new reportClimate Change and Security in the Arctic, released today by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), an Institute of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), together with the Norwegian Institute of International Affairs (NUPI), assesses the growing security risks posed by a warming climate in one of the most rapidly changing regions on Earth. The report concludes that the risks posed by uncurbed warming include the potential for new conflicts, the breakdown of multilateral cooperation, and rising great power tensions. The analysis looks at two future warming scenarios (curbed and uncurbed) to project security threats alongside potential environmental changes deemed likely in the High North by 2030.

The analysis identifies a number of key Arctic climate security risks across both warming scenarios, but notes that the risks are more severe and more likely in an “uncurbed” warming scenario. In a “curbed” scenario in which the world takes rapid action to curb climate change, including by transforming energy use, decarbonizing the global economy, and building international institutions to manage climate risks, the Arctic is likely to see fewer opportunities for severe security risks. The report recommends integrating this climate risk analysis into Arctic planning strategies into the coming years, and avoiding the uncurbed warming scenario.

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. 

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.

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.