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Briefing Note: Climate Change and National Security

Briefing Note: Climate Change and National Security

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Top Line:

Last night, a number of Senators talked throughout the night about climate change.

The American Security Project, as a national security-focused think tank, believes that concern about climate change should be a non-partisan issue. While we know that the argument about solutions will be partisan, both sides should start with a common understanding that climate change poses real threats to national security.

Climate change is a national security threat that America’s military, and militaries around the world are taking seriously.

We know that the world’s armed forces have not suddenly determined that they want to save the environment – they foresee that climate change will harm their country’s national security. Our political leaders need to work on solutions, not argue about the existence of a clear threat.

Find out more: www.NationalSecurityandClimateChange.org

Below, you will find Five Key Points about Climate Security along with links to ASP reports, papers, and articles to support them. These points demonstrate the risks of climate change to the U.S. homeland and to American interests around the world.


ASP’s Five Key Points about Climate Security

1) The effects of climate change pose clear threats to U.S. Homeland Security: America’s infrastructure, food production, and American lives are at risk.

ASP Resources:

i) Climate Security Report: Climate Change & the Homeland

ii) Protecting the Homeland – The Rising Costs of Inaction on Climate Change

iii) Climate Change’s Threats to the United States – Lessons from the Netherlands

iv) Pay Now, Pay Later: A State-by-State Assessment of the Costs of Climate Change

2) Globally, how climate change interacts with society will determine the extent of security threats and the need for military involvement. Global threats include: migration, conflict over scarce resources, reduced food production, water insecurity, and others.

ASP Resources:

i) Climate Security Report: Climate Change & Global Security

ii) Climate Change, The Arab Spring and Food Prices

iii) The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change


3) Climate change alone will not cause war, but it serves as an “accelerant of instability” or a “Threat Multiplier” that makes already existing threats worse.

ASP Resources:

i) National Security, Climate, and the Philippine Typhoon

ii) Global Warming Makes Solving the 21st Century’s Problems Much Harder

iii) Bay of Bengal – A Hotspot for Climate Insecurity

iv) Climate Change: The Missing Link in Tackling the Mali Crisis

v) A Clear and Present Danger: The Security Council and Climate Change


4) The science is definitive enough for action. The military is good at Risk Management: in battle, you cannot wait until you have 100% certainty before acting.

ASP Resources:

i) IPCC Report Shows Climate Change Risk is Real and Urgent

ii) Linking Climate Change and Conflict – New Report Stirs Old Debate

5) The U.S. Military is preparing for Climate Change by working with allies, studying potential threats, ensuring resilience to extreme weather, and preparing to deploy when needed. Militaries around the world are likewise preparing for the threats of climate change: over 70% of the countries in the world have identified climate change as a security threat, according to ASP’s Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change

ASP Resources:

i) The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results

ii) QDR – The National Security Challenge of Climate Change

iii) The Arctic – Five Critical Security Challenges


Key Experts:

ASP's Senior Fellow Andrew Holland Andrew Holland, Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate


@theandyholland drones_cheneyBGen Stephen A. Cheney USMC (Ret)




Outside Resources

US Government (Defense and Intelligence)

2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, U.S. Department of Defense

Department of Defense FY 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap: Department of Defense

The National Military Strategy of the United States of America: Redefining America’s Military Leadership: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

National Intelligence Council Report: “Natural Resources in 2020, 2030, and 2040: Implications for the United States.”

National Intelligence Council: The Impact of Climate Change to 2030. Commissioned Research and Conference Reports

National Intelligence Assessment (NIA) on the National Security Implications of Climate Change to 2030


Allied Governments

Organization for Security Co-operation in Europe (OSCE): Program Details, “Security Implications of Climate Change” (2014)

Australian Government: Strong and Secure – A Strategy for Australia’s National Security

UK Strategic Defense and Security Review: Securing Britain in an Age of Uncertainty


Scientific Documents

Climate Change Evidence & Causes, An overview from the Royal Society and the US National Academy of Sciences

Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises, US National Academy of Science

IPCC Fifth Assessment Report, The Physical Science Basis