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Admiral Lee Gunn on the Security Threats Posed by Climate Change

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Check out the following op-ed in The Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists by Admiral Lee Gunn, President of the American Security Project – Gunn argues that climate change will become one of the most pressing national security challenges in the years to come.


“Climate-intensified conflict between mobile populations seeking fresh water amid wanton state instability may prompt future policy makers to deploy U.S. forces not only to combat extremism in the region, but also to provide aid to the hungry and displaced.”

He believes that the U.S. government must plan – as soon as possible – for the new contingencies associated with climate change, including increased humanitarian crises and mass migrations, conflict over increasingly scarce resources, extremism, and government weakness and failure. Admiral Gunn cites the situation at Diego Garcia as just one example of how military logistics and strategies will be effected by climate change:

“ The British Indian Ocean Territory of Diego Garcia, for example, is home to a critical staging facility for U.S. and British naval and air forces operating in the Middle East and Central Asia. But this atoll sits just a few feet above sea level. If sea levels rise as projected, the facility could be lost, forcing the U.S. and British militaries to adapt and adjust their logistics and operations throughout the region.”

He recommends the following actions:

  • “Prepare military officers and troops to address the security and humanitarian needs of resource-stressed populations and climate refugees;
  • “Expand global public health programs (e.g., malarial eradication);
  • “Negotiate an agreement with Canada and Mexico to govern the use of fresh water in North America;
  • “Lead the world in developing conflict-resolution mechanisms to mediate between climate change’s winners and losers.”

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