August 10, 2009
Natural Security on the Front Page
Sunday’s New York Times reported on the nexus of climate change and national security and the efforts to integrate climate change concerns into U.S. strategic planning. John Broder, writing for the New York Times, takes note that though “the Pentagon and the State Department have studied the issues arising from dependence on foreign sources of energy for years,” the synthesis of climate change and U.S. national security is a relatively new phenomenon. Deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy Amanda Dory called the move a “‘sea change’”-style transformation. Recent studies and war game exercises suggest that this transformation is a welcome and important step; the National Defense University and the Center for Naval Analysis both project U.S. military involvement abroad will increase as storms intensify, droughts worsen, and food and water become scarcer. At risk, too, are a number of U.S. military bases threatened by sea-level rise and severe storm activity.
As the threat of climate change becomes clearer, U.S. strategic planners will have to take steps to ensure that the country is prepared for climate change contingencies. When released in February 2010, the Quadrennial Defense Review will include an assessment of the impacts of climate change on the Department of Defense's facilities, equipment and current and future missions. The State Department’s inaugural Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review is expected to address climate change concerns as well. Both reviews represent another watershed moment for the United States in redefining what constitutes a threat to U.S. national security. The New York Times article will hopefully reinforce the public awareness of climate change-security linkages and draw even more attention to the issue.