Environmental Security 3

Old Soldiers Never Die..But They Can Change

The last time we looked at a landmark 2003 paper on the potential effects of abrupt climate change that was commissioned by none other than the Pentagon. Since that Schwartz and Randall paper, two additional studies of particular note have been published as well as the emergence of yet another group involved in this environmental security arena.

The first, completed in 2007, is titled National Security and the Threat of Climate Change and was done under the auspices of the Center for Naval Analysis Corporation. It brought together 11 retired admirals and generals with scientists comprised of both advocates and skeptics of anthropomorphic climate change to develop recommendations related to security implications. The overall consensus positions were:

Climate change can act as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, and it presents significant national security challenges for the United States. Accordingly, it is appropriate to start now to help mitigate the severity of some of these emergent challenges. The decision to act should be made soon in order to plan prudently for the nation’s security. The increasing risk from climate change should be addressed now because they will almost certainly get worse if we delay.

The following recommendations were made: [1]

1. The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.

2. The US should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate changes at levels that will avoid significant disruption the global security and stability.

3. The US should commit to global partnerships that helped less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts.

4. The department of defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved US combat power through energy efficiency.

5. DOD should conduct an assessment of the impact on US military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other possible climate change impacts over the next 30 to 40 years.

(Since that time, the group has reconvened on an issue in a separate document relating to many aspects of energy security, which while closely allied to climate change, is a separate document and will not be detailed herein.) See Powering America’s Defense.

In mid-July of 2009 former Sen. John Warner (R-VA) joined with the Pew Environment Group that the launched a project to inform the public and of critical links between national security, energy and global warming. [2] Reports from the press release notes that the mission will be “dedicated to advancing solutions to combat the threat of global warming, protect our national security, increase our energy independence, and preserve our natural resources.” One interesting note is that Sen. Warner, who spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate as a Republican, has a reputation as being conservative on issues pertaining to national security. This may have been an excellent selection as a front person for not only the organization but for the greater realization of the close ties between climate change and energy security. With over 30 years in the U.S. Senate as a member of the GOP, Warner may be able to play an important bridging role to reconcile what has formally been an almost irreconcilable issue for many conservative Republicans.

A more recent document to make an appearance is the Climate Security Index compiled by the Climate Security Initiative of the American Security Project In this document under the auspices of a politically diverse group, the organization states “the consequences of changes in the Earth’s climate is not simply about saving Polar Bears or preserving the beauty of mountain glaciers, as important as those are. Climate change is a threat to our national security.” They go on to say: [3]

There is no doubt that this increased level of carbon dioxide emissions is responsible for the dramatic increase in atmospheric carbon above levels recorded over the past million years.

Noting that the climate has changed in the past is not a source of comfort, but rather a warning about the fragility of our reliance on the inter-connected web climate constrained habitats.

The document then goes on to provide a number of nicely illustrated indices including greenhouse gas emissions, indicators of climate change, security impacts of climate change, energy security, geographic choke points and policy considerations including alternative energy sources and government capability and responses. The directors of this truly appear to be highly diverse in both political disposition and experience and include such well-known people as former Sen. Gary Hart, Sen. John Kerry, Sen. Chuck Hagel, national security expert Richard Armitage and several retired generals.

Next time we’ll have a look at the Pentagon’s most recent Quadrennial Defense Review that has some rather amazing statements considering the source. While many skeptics disavow climate scientists, it will be interesting to see their reactions to this document–almost as interesting to see how environmentalists may or may not accept help from this most seemingly unconventional partner.

Environmental Security Part I: The Basics

Environmental Security Part II: Enter the Pentagon

Environmental Security Part III: Old Soldiers Never Die, But They Can Change

Environmental Security Part IV: The Pentagon is My Friend?

Environmental Security Part V: Climate of Conflict 1

[1] National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. The CNA Corporation. 2007.

[2] News release, the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate. July 14, 2009.

[3] Finel, Bernard I and Bartolf, Christine. Climate Security Index. Climate Security Initiative of the American Security Project. January 2010.