Today is World Water Day, a day to promote awareness of the acute water and food shortages plaguing the estimated 1 out of 8 people in the world that lack reliable access to clean drinking water.
Last year, then Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said that water is “an essential ingredient of global peace, stability, and security,” adding, “We think it actually is our duty and responsibility to make sure that this water issue stays at the very top of America’s foreign policy and national security agenda.”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks last year coincided with the release of an intelligence community assessment on Global Water Security, a study commissioned by the State Department to analyze the effect of water on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. “This assessment is a landmark document that puts water security in its rightful place as part of national security,” Secretary Clinton said of the report.
Photo: An aerial view of one of the tributaries of the Niger River. Courtesy of Shaw McCutcheon and the United Nations.
Natural resource and environmental issues have gained more attention from the national security and foreign policy communities in recent years– from concerns related to the U.S. rare earth supply chain to opportunities that might accrue from America’s growing abundance of natural gas. Which ones might get pressing attention in 2013? Here’s a list of the top U.S. policy trends I’ll be watching in 2013, in no particular order.
The National Intelligence Council (NIC) published its Global Trends 2030: Alternative Worlds on Monday, a quadrennial analysis of the major trends shaping the global security environment. The report is intended to provide a framework for a new presidential administration to think about the threats and opportunities that lie ahead in the future security landscape.
The report examined four medgatrends that analysts believe will shape the world of tomorrow: individual empowerment; diffusion of power; demographic patterns; and the food, water, energy nexus.
The latter two trends directly affect each other. According to the NIC’s analysis, “Demand for these [food, water and energy] resources will grow substantially owing to an increase in the global population [demographics].”
Climate change is inextricably linked to the growing food, water and energy nexus. According to the report:
Demand for food, water, and energy will grow by approximately 35, 40, and 50 percent respectively owing to an increase in the global population and the consumption patterns of an expanding middle class. Climate change will worsen the outlook for the availability of these critical resources. Climate change analysis suggests that the severity of existing weather patterns will intensify, with wet areas getting wetter and dry and arid areas becoming more so. Much of the decline in precipitation will occur in the Middle East and northern Africa as well as western Central Asia, southern Europe, southern Africa, and the US Southwest.
We are not necessarily headed into a world of scarcities, but policymakers and their private sector partners will need to be proactive to avoid such a future. Many countries probably won’t have the wherewithal to avoid food and water shortages without massive help from outside.
Technology will play an interesting role in the future security landscape, particularly when it comes to energy, according to the NIC’s analysis. Technological breakthroughs in unconventional natural gas and oil production are contributing to an energy revolution in North America.
Yesterday, Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton participated in a roundtable on water security while visiting the United Nations in New York, raising the security profile of water among delegates at the UN General Assembly meeting.
In a speech in March honoring World Water Day, Secretary Clinton said that water is “an essential ingredient of global peace, stability, and security.” She added: “We think it actually is our duty and responsibility to make sure that this water issue stays at the very top of America’s foreign policy and national security agenda.”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks earlier this year coincided with the release of the intelligence community’s Global Water Security report, a study commissioned by the State Department to analyze the effect of water on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. “This assessment is a landmark document that puts water security in its rightful place as part of national security,” Secretary Clinton said of the report.
Yesterday, Secretary Clinton reiterated her clarion call for action to address the growing global water crisis, drawing on the intelligence community's findings to frame water as a security issue.
“Now, this year alone in the United States, we’ve experienced extreme drought conditions in some parts of our country and devastating floods in others. We are well aware that Europe, Asia, and Africa have all experienced similar challenges. Now, you’ve already heard about our Intelligence Community Assessment on Global Water Security, and I hope that you will have if you didn’t today have a chance to really study it, because water scarcity could have profound implications for security,” Secretary Clinton said yesterday.
“The report found that dwindling supplies and poor management of water resources will certainly affect millions of people as food and crops grow scarcer and access to water more difficult to obtain. In fact, in some places, the water tables are already more depleted than we thought and wells are drying up.”
Read Secretary Clinton’s full remarks here.
Countries are increasingly investing in new energy projects to boost domestic energy production and shrink the demand for foreign energy imports. However, climate change may undermine efforts by countries to promote assured access to energy, including with nuclear power, hydroelectric dams and other energy projects that are tied to water resources.
A new study by the journal Nature Climate Change cautions that energy production from thermoelectric power plants could become increasingly constrained as a result of climate change. On the one hand, climate change is expected to warm river and other water resources generally used by thermoelectric power stations (such as nuclear and fossil-fuelled plants) for cooling. According to the study, the United States relies on thermoelectric power stations for about 91 percent of total energy generation (compared to 78 percent in Europe). “During recent warm, dry summers in 2003, 2006 and 2009 several thermoelectric power plants in Europe were forced to reduce production, because of restricted availability of cooling water,” the study found. “In the US a similar event in 2007–2008 caused several power plants to reduce production, or shut down for several days owing to a lack of surface water for cooling and environmental restrictions on thermal discharges.”
This is a new feature to highlight the top tweets of the week to hit my Twitter feed (@wmrogers).
The Hill’s Energy and Environment Blog discusses the White House’s announced release of a new National Bioeconomy Blueprint on Thursday that is expected to make a broad push for investments in biotechnology, including renewable biofuels.
Circle of Blue links to a report in Forbes that discusses the growing strategic importance of water in China, driven in part by increasing demand as well as mismanagement of existing resources. According to the report, “The country’s water supply is smaller than that of the U.S., yet it must meet the needs of a population nearly five times as large. Industrialization has taken its toll on this already limited resource. Industrial and biological pollution has contaminated almost 90 percent of the underground water in Chinese cities.”
As I mentioned last week on World Water Day, the intelligence community released its assessment on Global Water Security, timed very well I thought with Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton's launch of the new U.S. Water Program. Special thanks to our friends (and my former colleagues) across the way at the Woodrow Wilson Center's Environmental Change and Security Program for writing this thoughtful piece on the new intelligence community assessment that originally appeared on the New Security Beat blog.
By Schuyler Null, Managing Editor of the New Security Beat
Alongside and in support of Secretary Clinton’s announcement of a new State Department-led water security initiative last week was the release of a global water security assessment by the National Intelligence Council and Director of National Intelligence. The aim of the report? Answer the question: “How will water problems (shortages, poor water quality, or floods) impact U.S. national security interests over the next 30 years?”
1) Over the next 10 years, water problems will contribute to instability in states important to U.S. national security interests. Water shortages, poor water quality, and floods by themselves are unlikely to result in state failure. However, water problems – when combined with poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions – contribute to social disruptions that can result in state failure.
Water is “an essential ingredient of global peace, stability, and security,” Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton said yesterday in honor of World Water Day. “We think it actually is our duty and responsibility to make sure that this water issue stays at the very top of America’s foreign policy and national security agenda.”
Secretary Clinton’s remarks also coincided with the release of the intelligence community’s Global Water Security report, a study commissioned by the State Department to analyze the effect of water on U.S. foreign policy and national security interests. “This assessment is a landmark document that puts water security in its rightful place as part of national security,” Secretary Clinton said of the report.
Photo: Secretary Clinton delivers remarks honoring the 2012 World Water Day. Courtesy of Michael Gross and the U.S. State Department.
Today is World Water Day, a day to promote awareness of the acute water and food shortages plaguing the estimated 1 out of 8 persons that lack reliable access to clean drinking water.
This morning at 10:30 AM, tune into the State Department's website where you can watch Secretary of State Clinton deliver her remarks on World Water Day. According to a State Department release, Secretary Clinton will also launch the new U.S. Water Partnership (USWP) today. The statement says that “The USWP is a public-private partnership formed to share U.S. knowledge, leverage and mobilize resources, and facilitate cross-sector partnerships to find solutions to global water accessibility challenges, especially in the developing world.”
The Director of National Intelligence will also release the Global Water Security Intelligence Community Assessment, a long-awaited report from the intelligence community that describes the security challenges associated with increased water scarcity.
Hopefully the rollout of the IC report timed with a major speech by Secretary Clinton will generate some greater awareness within the security community about the importance of water security to U.S. national security and foreign policy. As Secretary Clinton said in a speech in 2010, “water represents one of the great diplomatic and development opportunities of our time.” As the United States rebalances in the Asia Pacific, perhaps water can serve as a touchstone for building strategic partnerships with countries already beset by water insecurity, a challenge likely to be exacerbated in the future. It is something that security practitioners should consider.
The U.S. military officially declared an end to its mission in Iraq today. Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, speaking in Baghdad, said that Iraq has shown remarkable progress in the past nine years. However, as with many countries transitioning to democracy, “Iraq will be tested in the days ahead — by terrorism, and by those who would seek to divide, by economic and social issues, by the demands of democracy itself,” Secretary Panetta said. Beyond the sectarian violence and a potentially aggressive Iran on its border, the Iraqi government will continue to face many of the perennial challenges it has been grappling with for the last nine years: reliable access to electricity, water and other basic services that the government is working to provide.
Despite U.S. and other government investments in Iraq since 2003, basic services are still largely unreliable. According to Al Jazeera, “Power cuts are routine, and millions of Iraqis lack regular access to clean water, proper hospitals, or basic infrastructure.” These challenges could hamstring Iraq’s economy, especially as the country looks to draw in foreign businesses to promote economic development. “Unemployment officially stands at around 16 per cent,” Al Jazeera reported. “Many Iraqis say the real number is nearly twice that high, especially among young Iraqis. The only reliable employer is the government, which provides jobs for nearly 40 per cent of the workforce.” Bloomberg reports that the government is trying to attract foreign business, including from U.S. hotel operators and developers. However, “A possible lack of fresh water, electricity and communications systems also can be obstacles to doing business in the country.”