Congratulations to our friends at the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative who formally launched their “Global Warning” project yesterday. “Global Warning” is an online project that, in addition to providing in-depth stories on a range of climate change impacts, from the effects on oil pipeline infrastructure and U.S. military bases, to altering disease vectors, has a number of interactive features and multi-media resources that really help get at the complexity of climate change and the potential implications for the United States.
One of my favorite features is the “The Connections” feature. It is a list of 32 terms that the project leaders use to help the user understand the relationship between, say, glacial melt (an environmental impact of climate change) and demographics (an existing sociological trend). Visually, it stands alone as a great example of the complex web of cascading environmental and human impacts of climate change (see the picture above). Yet the feature offers so much more.
As the project leaders note: “The physical climate changes nearly all scientists predict — melting glaciers, longer droughts, stronger storms — are happening in the context of existing problems. Intelligence analysts predict environmental impacts and human reactions will cascade on one another, creating both challenges and opportunities.” For example, the feature draws the connection between Arctic ice melt and the implications for the U.S. military. “Worried about opening shipping lanes and scuffles over mineral rights, the Navy has tasked an admiral with climate change planning, including whether to invest in new equipment such as icebreakers,” a tab displays when the user clicks on “U.S. military impacts.”
In addition to these interactive features (there’s even a game where you are asked to respond to some serious scenarios as either a diplomat, economist, scientist or aid worker), there are well-researched reports on a range of topics. Given that the Arctic is near and dear to us at the Natural Security blog, it is worth highlighting this piece from Jacquelyn Ryan published online by The Washington Post Sunday evening: “As Arctic melts, U.S. ill-positioned to tap resources.” Ryan addresses some of the many challenges the United States has to face in preparing for a melting Arctic, including inadequate infrastructure for the U.S. Coast Guard to have a sustained presence in the Arctic and that fact that the United States has not ratified the UN Convention on the Law of the Sea, “The only international treaty that applies to the Arctic,” Ryan reports.
The project also hosts a number of expert interviews that cover everything from why climate change is a national security issue (featuring videos with the Navy’s Task Force Climate Change Director ADM. David Titley and former CIA Director James Woolsey) to why Americans need to care about it (featuring a conversation with Geoff Dabelko at the Woodrow Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program).
The “Global Warning” project is going to be an excellent resource for those currently studying climate change and national security issues, but also for building out that audience. It is structured – from my perspective – as not only a resource for people already familiar with these issues, but as a teaching aid to those who want to become familiar with these issues. Congratulations to the whole team at the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative. We’ll be following your reporting!
Photo: "The Connections" feature visually displays the complex web of relationships between environmental and human impacts of climate change. Reprinted with permission. Courtesy of "Global Warning" and the Medill National Security Journalism Initiative.