Title: Remarks on Climate Change and International Security

Abstract: Our planet’s climate crisis is also becoming a grave and growing danger to the security of the United States—a threat multiplier that our intelligence community has been warning about for a dozen years.

Our military leaders are also growing blunt.  “Climate change is no longer a future threat—it is taking place now,” a blue-ribbon group of retired three- and four-star flag officers warned half a decade ago.  As the evidence piles up, senior military leaders have dubbed the threat “strategically-significant” and issued dire warnings about the impact of sea level rise on the military’s mission.  These warnings have continued during this Administration, including a recent U.S. Army War College report admitting that the military is “precariously unprepared” for threats stemming from extreme weather and environmental destruction.

Across the Middle East, Asia, and Africa, global heating is fueling shortages, mass migrations and a new generation of climate refugees that threaten political stability and civil society.  

Excessive heat could make parts of India, Pakistan, and China virtually uninhabitable by the end of this century.  As more of the world’s population flocks to vulnerable cities and coasts, climate change also aggravates the kind of poverty, social tensions and health catastrophes that create a ripe climate for terrorism and other violence—which tempts our adversaries to take advantage of chaos.

Meanwhile, as more Arctic ice melts, Russia and China are moving to exert control over polar trade routes and newly available resources.

In addition to causing headaches for U.S. military planners, climate change is directly threatening our troops and our capacity to defend ourselves in a dangerous world.

Indeed, as weather disasters become more common, mass evacuations and damaged infrastructure here at home will increase calls on our military to support strapped local responders.

The Center for Climate and Security has developed a “Climate Security Plan for America” (to be released in Sept 19) that addresses both the unprecedented risks of climate change and the unprecedented opportunity to address the greatest global challenge of our time.

What are the critical links between the changing climate and national security?  How does increasing weather and water disruption affect great power competition?  These are some of the questions that are fundamental to our future.

Speaker Information
Sherri Goodman
Senior Fellow
Wilson Center
Gudrun Magnusdottir
Date and Time: 
Tuesday, October 22, 2019 - 3:30pm
The Jenkins Room | Croul Hall 3101