On January 9, 2017, The National Intelligence Council (NIC) released the sixth installment of their series, Global Trends, aimed at assessing the key issues and challenges facing the world, and their implications for the future. This edition of the series is titled, Global Trends: The Paradox of Progress. The “paradox” being the fact that achievements of the industrial and information ages, breed both opportunity and danger. One such example cited in the report is the economic opportunity that accompanied the industrial revolution also paradoxically fueled the existential crisis of climate change.
Global Trends examines how critical trends and choices can affect the future. Furthermore, it lays out three potential scenarios that may arise as a result of these trends. Across these scenarios, the trends indicate that the world will become more volatile in the years ahead. However, the same trends that generate short-term risk can also create positive opportunities over the long term. In an increasingly unpredictable world, the actors that are the most resilient will be in the best position to exploit such opportunities. This edition of Global Trends highlights resilience as paramount for global actors to defend against the effects of climate change as they become more unpredictable and fierce in the future.
Resilience will be vital to protect states and citizens from the predicted security ramifications associated with climate change, as The American Security Project (ASP) has shown. Resilience is defined by the ability to withstand and spring back from shock events and attritional losses. Both ASP and the NIC attribute the effects of climate change as potentially disruptive for society, and thus a threat to national and global security. Such disruptive effects include more extreme weather, water and soil stress, food insecurity, sea-level rise, ocean acidification, glacial melt, and pollution, which will change living patterns and displace the world’s coastal and island populations.
More positively, Global Trends credits the United States as already exhibiting many of the factors associated with resilience, including decentralized governance, a diversified economy, inclusive society, large land mass, biodiversity, secure energy supplies, and global military power projection capabilities and alliances. While the United States military does possess substantial capacity for humanitarian intervention, this issue should not be laid solely upon their shoulders. The security ramifications of climate change call for regional adaptation methods and more funding as ASP discusses in the report, Resilience in the Face of Rising Seas.
Global Trends indicates that, “climate change – whether observed or anticipated – will become integral to how people view their world.” Resilience is important for the world’s future in the face of climate change. Although in today’s political atmosphere resilience policy will not win any elections, Global Trends expects that this issue will be re-positioned higher on the political agenda as citizens in the developing world gain a stronger political voice through increased awareness. Investing in resilience allows the United States and the global community to mitigate the security risk of climate change, and failing to do so is in a word, irresponsible.