April 11, 2013

Will Rogers’ Work at the Center for a New American Security

Our colleague Will Rogers, most recently the Bacevich Fellow at the Center for a New American Security (CNAS), is moving on to serve as military legislative assistant to Senator Brian Schatz of Hawaii. As such, we would like to take this opportunity to highlight some of the excellent work he has done for CNAS. Will’s contributions at CNAS included, among other leadership activities, articles in a number of  their high-quality analytical products.

In “Cooperation from Strength: The United States, China and the South China Sea (2012),” Will looked at the “role of natural resources in the South China Sea,” highlighting dynamics driven by climate change, energy, fish-stocks and rare earths minerals. As we noted in a previous review:

According to Will, climate change threatens to act as an “accelerant of instability” in the area by “exacerbating environmental trends in ways that may overwhelm civil-society institutions,  and this may affect countries’ decisions involving a broad range of resources – including energy, fisheries and minerals.”

On energy, Will highlights how increases in droughts precipitated by climate change can lead to reduced hydroelectric productivity in China, which could in turn increase the incentive for China to explore fossil fuels under the South China Sea floor, including in contested areas.

On fisheries, the chapter highlights evidence, albeit not yet conclusive, that climate change will “affect fish migration in ways that could exacerbate competition in the South China Sea.” In short, warming ocean waters may cause cold-water species to decline, which is likely to “increase fishing in contested areas of the South China Sea, which may increase the number of confrontations involving fishing trawlers and worsen tensions between China and its South China Sea neighbors.”

On minerals, Will touches on the fact that China’s increased investments in renewable energy technologies in response to climate change may “increase the strategic importance of minerals and metals in the South China Sea.” This is because many green technologies are reliant on minerals that are vulnerable to Chinese supply disruptions, given China’s dominance of the “global rare earths market.” Will goes on to argue that this may “exacerbate diplomatic tensions by encouraging countries to extract more minerals from the South China Sea to protect their alternative energy supplies and to control access to these minerals in order to gain greater diplomatic leverage.”

In “Lost in Translation: Closing the Gap Between Climate Science and National Security Policy (2010),” that Will Rogers co-authored with Dr. Jay Gulledge, they made the following sensible recommendations:

• The president should form an interagency working group on climate change and national security with all relevant interagency partners.
• The Department of Defense should establish a Permanent Advisory Group on Climate Change and National Security under the Defense Science Board.
• The Department of State should appoint climate science advisors to serve within the regional bureaus and on the policy and planning staffs.
• The academic and scientific communities should create incentives for climate scientists to research how climate change could affect national security.

Will was also the editor and contributor to CNAS’ Natural Security Blog, which we have spent many days and nights reading and learning from.

Will Rogers will most certainly be missed in his CNAS capacity. But we imagine he will be contributing to this space for years to come, and look forward to hearing more from him!