There was no red, orange or yellow alert color attached to the National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change report this week. But given it was released by the CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board (MAB) – a group of sixteen retired generals and admirals – it should create enough of a “terror alert level” to spur even the most conservative government officials into emergency preparedness measures and sustainable underpinnings.
“It is not possible to discuss the future of national and international security without addressing climate change,” said General Donald Hoffman, U.S. Air Force (Ret.). “Food shortages, droughts, floods – all directly tied to climate change will be catalysts for conflict.”
In particular the MAB notes climate change could directly compromise “troop readiness and strain base resilience”. These aren’t terms normally associated with climate change and environmental causes. Yet, National Intelligence Council data cited in the report shows that major infrastructure at over 30 military installations is at risk due to rising sea levels.
Whereas an initial CNA MAB report in 2007 described projected climate change as a “threat multiplier,” the 2014 report drills down on the new vulnerabilities created and tensions amplified due to climate change, which it deems “a catalyst for conflict”.
Areas of focus include how observed climate impacts such as prolonged drought and flooding (think California, Maryland and Florida) impact stability and create conflict — at the same time that decentralized power structures upend and deepen vulnerabilities in Africa, the Middle East and Asia.
The Report Outlines:
- Domestically, climate change impacts are and will continue to challenge key elements of homeland security, posing new threats to infrastructure, troop readiness and more;
- The projected climate impacts on the nexus of water, food and energy security are especially profound, and how these resources are produced, distributed and controlled has significant security implications;
- Accelerating melting of “old ice” in the Arctic is making the region more accessible to a wide variety of activities. Neither the U.S. nor the international community are prepared for the pace of these physical changes, which have implications on shipping, resource extraction, tourism and other activities;
- Rapid population growth in coastal and urban areas combined with an increasingly complex global security environment demand a more thorough and strategic evaluation of future and current climate impacts;
- Especially as the Department of Defense struggles to streamline its budget and increase its efficiency, climate change must be factored into vulnerability assessments and future investments.
“It’s paramount that we educate people about the report findings and while we’ve seen some progress building resiliency and planning for climate impacts, it’s time for actionable strategies that mitigate climate change,” said General Hoffman, who, as part of the rollout of the report, will be touring the country with the CNA MAB highlighting the results to members of the media, community leaders and the general public.