Paul J Kern [USA-Ret General, The Cohen Group]:
When you look at two great countries in this world as economic challenges to the United States, India and China, we can make a threat out of them, or we can make friends out of them. …
There is only one biosphere here, and we somehow or another have to figure out how to share it …
The Security Challenge of Climate Change
National Security Implications
US Army War College, Carlisle, Pennsylvania.
- Taking up the Security Challenge of Climate Change, August, 2009.
Rymn Parsons: Assistant Counsel and Environmental Practice Team Leader, Naval Facilities, Engineering Command, Mid-Atlantic, located at Naval Station, Norfolk, VA.
TAKING UP THE SECURITY CHALLENGE OF CLIMATE CHANGE
Climate change is real, serious, and inescapable, and its looming effects, certain and uncertain, may prove to be destabilizing on a massive scale. …
Global Warming and Climate Change
The Science of Global Warming
[In] 2007, the United Nations’ (UN) Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) released its long-awaited Fourth Assessment.
The IPCC report is … is well-balanced and moderate.
[Climate] change is generally accepted, scientifically speaking, to be a product of manmade global warming, even though uncertainties remain as to where, when, and how much.
Present and Predicted Climate Change Effects
… Among the current and predicted consequences are
- more frequent and more severe weather-related natural disasters, intensifying heat waves,
- wider and more rapid desertification,
- longer-lasting and more intense drought and other water shortages,
- more unpredictable and more damaging floods,
- wider ranging and more destructive wildfires,
- irreversible sea level rise, and
- accelerating biodiversity loss.
elsewhere, entire island nations are possibly imperiled by inundation.
The number of persons affected by weather-related natural disaster in the last decade has tripled.
These phenomena, set against a back-drop of accelerating population growth, may lead to large-scale displacement of peoples, particularly unsustainable rural-to-urban migration.
Competition may ensue over scarce resources.
Some states will fail …
[Others] will aggressively exploit dwindling resources.
Both routes may eventually spawn conflict. …
Observed and predicted climate change effects have sparked grave concern in many quarters;
human death toll estimates are in the millions.
Security Implications of Climate Change
In 2007, the Center for Naval Analyses, under the leadership of former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security Sherri W. Goodman, issued a report entitled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.”
Authored by a Military Advisory Board consisting of former Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine general and flag officers, the report, which cites IPCC, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), and National Aeronautical and Space Administration (NASA) peer-reviewed scientific data and analyses, makes four findings:
- projected climate change is a serious threat to America’s national security;
- climate change will make some of the most volatile regions of the world even more unstable;
- projected climate change will increase tensions even in stable regions of the world; and
- climate change, national security, and energy dependence are related, global challenges.
Based on these findings, the panel had five recommendations:
- the security implications of climate change should be fully incorporated into national security and national defense strategies;
- the United States should play a stronger role, nationally and internationally, in the mitigation of climate change;
- the United States should build partnerships that help less-developed nations adapt to climate change;
- the Department of Defense (DoD) should enhance its operational capability through more energy efficient combat power; and
- DoD should assess the impact on US military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other projected climate change impacts over the next 30 to 40 years.
Destabilizing Effects on Failed and Failing States
Food and water shortages, health crises, population displacement (rural-to-urban and across borders), resource and territorial conflict, damage to infrastructure, and greater poverty (real and comparative) are likely to erode confidence in governments too weak or too poor to ameliorate these conditions.
The infertile, inhospitable climes created by climate change may prove
- fertile and hospitable to extremist ideology;
- inviting to transnational crime; and
- insuperable to their impoverished, weakened, and disenfranchised inhabitants. …
The new Army field manual on operations, in describing the operational environment, foresees that climate change will exacerbate already difficult conditions in many developing countries, setting off massive humanitarian crises. …
Climate change, to which even highly developed states are vulnerable, will overwhelm weaker, less developed states that lack capability and capacity to adapt.
Already such groups as the Center for a New American Security, which in July 2008 conducted a war game entitled “Clout and Climate Change: A New Global Agenda for the 21st Century,” are striving to find solutions to mitigate and adapt to climate change.
Grand Strategy and Military Strategy for Climate Change
Another high-powered group, the American Security Project, which includes current and former political leaders, former military leaders, and major think tank representatives, issued a report in 2008 entitled “A New American Arsenal.”
This work, building on the 2007 Center for Naval Analyses report, cites climate change as one of four “grave challenges” for the United States.”
Among its recommendations are entreaties to advance sustainable development and environmental stewardship, to develop capabilities to deal with the consequences of climate change, especially “climate refugees,” and to formulate environmental conflict resolution mechanisms.
The Future Security Environment
A time is coming, measured in decades, not centuries, in which American military superpower status may remain, but its relative economic power may be less and its resulting political prerogatives may be fewer, that is, a “post-American” world of increasing multipolarity. …
It will be a world of evolving modernity to which the United States must adapt, not a world the United States will dictate. …
Strenuous efforts must be made to keep the US-China relationship non-confrontational and to encourage China to broaden its responsibility for promoting and maintaining peace and stability. …
Because the effects of global warming-related climate change are of as great, if not greater, concern to China than the United States, the two countries will find much common ground in this arena.
Mtigation of Global Warming by DOD and the Importance of US Leadership
… The United States should demonstrate its readiness and willingness to assume the mantle of leadership in climate change and environmental security, to stabilize and strengthen the international system, and relieve anxiety over American intentions.
Progress achieved on climate change will redound to America’s advantage in other arenas.
An International Problem Requires an International Solution.
… In a globalized world almost all problems cross borders, and environmental issues have long been recognized as among the most international, the most transnational, of all.
Reducing DoD’s Carbon Footprint
… The more money spent on mitigating and adapting to climate change, the less must be spent in dollars and lives on oil and arms, as fewer energy-driven conflicts will arise.
Sustainable Security and Adaptation to Climate Change
[In] this new century of intensifying globalization [and] accelerating political, economic, institutional, and environmental changes …
[The] US military must be as adept at making friends as it is at killing enemies.
The US armed forces, the Army in particular, have long been involved in development-related activity, but largely abandoned such doctrine and capabilities in the aftermath of Vietnam. …
Using a whole-of-government approach, the US armed forces must again become adept at mixing defense, development, and diplomacy.
[The] Center for American Progress, a chief proponent of sustainable security, labels climate change …
a threat multiplier in some of the most volatile regions of the world. …Lessons learned in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Horn of Africa, and [the] tribal regions of Pakistan, show that meeting basic human needs and facilitating good governance are critical strategic capabilities the US military, in conjunction with the Department of State, USAID, and other US agencies, must have.
Sino-American Cooperation in Africa
China is feverishly buying billions of dollars worth of friends and influence in Africa, and … seems bent on keeping business booming, no matter the human or environmental cost. …
Left unchecked, it will exacerbate the destabilizing effects of climate change, making things even worse for Africa, the United States, and eventually, China, too.
Stability and security in Africa are in everyone’s best interests. …
[The] United States and others should engage African military forces in activity that helps adapt to and mitigate climate change-related effects, easing human suffering, lessening further environmental degradation, reducing tensions and the potential for armed conflict, and strengthening challenged states. …
The Senator Paul Simon Water for the Poor Act (2005) … requires the Department of State, USAID, and other federal agencies … to aid poor countries to achieve clean water and sanitation.
Billions have been spent on such projects;
16 Sub-Saharan countries have been identified as high-priority for future funding.
AFRICOM is well positioned to play an enabling role for this undertaking … through outreach to African militaries and China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA).
China and the United States, under the auspices of the UN and through the African Union, must provide critical leadership and resources to peoples and states that will likely perish without them.
If China and the United States do so, it will serve more than altruistic motives; it will advance vital interests.
Conclusions and Recommendations
From a national security perspective, too much and too little can be made of climate change.
Thus far, too little has been made. …
The security challenge of climate change must be taken up, however, and soon, while options are more numerous, the prospects for success are greater, and the likelihood of major conflict is far less. …
[Adapting] to and mitigating climate change does not sound like a military mission. … But by law, climate change is now an essential consideration in DoD planning and operations. Planning, of course, cannot succeed in a vacuum of strategic guidance.
Building on the work of the National Intelligence Council, the Center for Naval Analyses, the American Security Project, the Center for a New American Security, and others, DoD should champion a necessary and central, but measured and balanced role for American forces.
Diplomacy and development are not DoD’s primary mission, but DoD, not without historical precedent, must widen and strengthen its capabilities in these areas.
For this, something more robust and permanent than an interagency working group is required for leadership, planning, and coordination.
The US military is the best vehicle, most notably in areas in which conflict is occurring or where civil government is ineffective or not present, for enabling diplomacy, development, and defense, as part of a preventative, collective security construct. The military’s reach, capability, and durability in these circumstances are obvious (but not limitless) advantages.
Sub-Saharan Africa would be a particularly good place to address the challenges that climate change is causing and will produce. …
Phase 0 stability operations and theater security cooperation projects are good ways to integrate military capabilities with development assistance.
How such projects would be selected and implemented … needs extensive further study.
Working with the combatant commands,
- the US Army War College Strategic Studies Institute;
- the National Defense University Institute for National Strategy Studies, Energy and Environmental Security Program; and
- the Center for Naval Analyses,
Carolyn Pumphrey (Ed): Program and Outreach Coordinator.
[Most] climatologists tend to be conservative in assessing phenomena they do not thoroughly understand, especially on politically controversial subjects such as the causes and consequences of climate change.
[The IPCC report-writing process requires that participating scientists reach a broad consensus on causal statements, at least in terms of a range of probabilities, in order for these statements to be included in a report.
[Some] climate scientists suspect that IPCC projections may systematically underestimate future climate change.
[They] note that the models used to project future warming either omit or do not fully account for certain potentially important positive feedbacks that could amplify warming (eg, release of greenhouse gases from thawing permafrost, reduced ocean and terrestrial CO2 removal from the atmosphere, etc).
[There] is some evidence (eg changes in global ice cover, rates of sea level rise, tropical storm patterns) that such feedbacks may already be developing in response to the present warming trend.