May 02, 2012

An Introduction to Climate and Security

It is always good to be reminded from time to time about why the U.S. national security establishment has a stake in how climate change manifests itself today and in the future. Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell of the Center for Climate and Security have an excellent post on their blog that provides a broad overview of why and how the U.S. security community has taken an interest in climate change that is worth reading at length.

According to Femia and Werrell:

The national security establishment in the United States, including the U.S. military and the U.S. intelligence community, understand that climate change is a national security threat, and that we cannot wait for 100% certainty before acting to mitigate and adapt to its effects. But not only do they understand it, they plan for it – considering it’s implications in strategic documents like the Quadrennial Defense Review, and setting up an office within the CIA called the Center for Climate Change and National Security. But why? Why do those organs of government that the public normally associates with fighting wars, devote time and effort to an issue that is branded as hogwash by many on the right of the political spectrum, and the exclusive domain of environmental activists on the left? The simple answer: climate change is, actually, a national security threat. It’s not just a politically expedient narrative politicians use to convince those that couldn’t care less about polar bears, rainforests, or “bugs and bunnies.” It’s actually a problem worthy of attention by those whose primary job it is to protect the United States from harm. The following is a brief outline of how and why the U.S. national security community treats climate change the way it does, starting with:


  • The common definition of a national security threat, and how climate change fits into that definition;
  • The actual national security implications of climate change;
  • Why climate change is a national security threat at least as significant as other traditional threats, such as the proliferation of nuclear weapons and materials.

Continue reading here.