On July 29th 2015 the US Department of Defense released the “Report on National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.” The report stated that global climate change will have “wide ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future” due to exacerbating issues such as, environmental degradation, social problems, weak political institutions and poverty which could lead to more conflicts around the globe.
The report outlines four general areas of climate-related security risks: (1) persistently recurring conditions such as flooding, drought, and higher temperatures; (2) more frequent and/or more severe extreme weather events; (3) sea level rise and temperature changes; and (4) decreases in arctic ice cover, type, and thickness.
One of the reasons the report was commissioned was to understand the planning that Geographic Combatant Command (GCC) had coordinated to deal with the reality of climate change. The report cites that GCCs are building infrastructure, training personnel to meet the needs of international communities dealing with the implications of climate change, and equipping non-governmental organizations (NGOs) the funds and resources necessary to strengthen their capacity to respond to the effects of climate change.
“The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk. We are already observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, and in the Arctic, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America. Case studies have demonstrated measurable impacts on areas vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and in specific cases significant interaction between conflict dynamics and sensitivity to climate changes. Although climate-related stress will disproportionately affect fragile and conflict-affected states, even resilient, well-developed countries are subject to the effects of climate change in significant and consequential ways.”
The report concludes that the Department of Defense sees climate change as a current reality and not a far-off threat. That some of the impacts of climate change are already being felt in the United States, Arctic, and the Middle East, among others. The report also provide optimism for the inclusion of climate change in its framework for managing operational and strategic risks.