Today, one hurricane (or tornado or fire or drought) does not constitute proof of climate change, but to deny the cumulative impact of extreme weather on geopolitics is no longer tenable. Changes in the environment will exacerbate destabilization in areas of deep strategic importance to the United States, including Asia, the Middle East, the Arctic, and Latin America. Facing increased temperatures, people will have to move to avoid rising sea water, tidal infiltrations, or arid soil; they will be searching for water, food, and space. The movement of people, and the fights between them over commodities, have been the causes of many wars.
In the Climate Security Report, a new study by the bipartisan American Security Project, climate control isn’t promoted as a way to help starving African children, or whales mating in the Pacific. In the cold language of military planning, the organization, which has close ties to the Pentagon, provides assessments of how each global environmental hot spot is connected to US interests. A major worry is figuring out under which circumstances combatant commanders — the military leaders overseeing geographic zones — will be required to utilize their troops and equipment to address the consequences of climate change.
And then there are the military’s own bases. As the American Security Project highlights, the changing environment puts certain installations at risk. Diego Garcia, the logistics center for all US and British military efforts in the Middle East, is an island in the Indian Ocean whose mean height is just 4 feet above sea level; coastal erosion and flooding are already threatening its perimeter. The same is true at installations in Bahrain near the Strait of Hormuz, and Guam, a key strategic gateway to East Asia.
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