April 27, 2010

Lost in Translation: Closing the Gap Between Climate Science and National Security Policy

Lost_in_Translation_WEB_PT.jpgYesterday, Dr. Jay Gulledge and I released our near year-long study on the gap between climate science and national security: Lost in Translation: Closing the Gap Between Climate Science and National Security Policy (PDF).

Many national security policymakers recognize – or are beginning to recognize – that climate change is a key trend that will shape the global security environment, which could have implications for U.S. national security. However, national security policymakers do not necessarily have the scientific information they need to make the best, well-informed decisions to respond to the potential affects of climate change.

As we identify in the report, the problem is that there is a gap between the climate science and national security policy communities. The demand for scientific information that can forecast the national security implications of climate change is relatively new. Unfortunately, that means the information scientists are producing is not necessarily the right information decision makers need to plan for and adapt to climate change – or it may be the right information, but just not in a form that policy makers can take and say, “Okay it’s clear what we need to do.”

In this report, Jay and I identify and explore what we believe are the key barriers that impeded the two communities from fostering better communication between each other. We recognize the relatively new and unclear demand for the type of scientific information national security policymakers need to make decisions to prepare for climate change as a key barrier between these communities. But in our near year-long study, with endless conversations with professionals in both the scientific and policy communities, we identify some interesting organizational impediments that illustrate how the two communities are fundamentally and culturally distinct. Simply put, the two communities do not necessarily speak the same cultural, institutional and professional language.

While there are individuals from both communities that are able to and do communicate and cooperate across this gap, we offer recommendations that we hope will help change institutional incentive structures and cultural and professional barriers so that two communities can work together across this gap and ensure that the United States can effectively plan for and adapt to the national security implications of climate change.

We’d love to hear your thoughts on the report.

The report will be formally launched at our big event on Wednesday from 3:00-5:30 p.m., on the national security implications of climate change, energy, and other natural resources challenges, featuring a keynote address by the Honorable Carol Browner, Assistant to the President for Energy and Climate Change. Christine Parthemore – our very own Natural Security blogger – will also be speaking at the event on a panel with David Kilcullen, President and CEO of Caerus and renowned irregular warfare expert; Rear Admiral Philip Hart Cullom, USN, lead of the Navy’s Task Force Energy and Director of the Fleet Readiness Division on the Navy Staff; and Robert Kaplan, CNAS Senior Fellow and correspondent for The Atlantic Monthly. We hope you’ll be able to make it. In fact, you can RSVP right here.