On Wednesday, the Department of Defense issued a report in which it highlights the global security implications of climate change. In the report, the authors note that climate change will exacerbate current world problems like ” poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries.”
The report was ordered by the Pentagon to identify the most serious and likely climate-related security risks for each combatant command, but also new opportunities. For instance, the melting Arctic is opening new shipping routes through the notorious Northwest Passage which is historically known for trapping ships in the ice. As such, traffic and tourism will intensify in the region. Economic development in the area will also intensify, primarily oil drilling. “Future Arctic offshore drilling will also create a resource demand and the need for emergency response, risk reduction measures, and environmental protections,” the report said.
In the Middle East, the greatest climate change risk is water scarcity, while in Africa – an area where the U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) is responsible – humanitarian crisis is the primary risk. Namely, severe drought and disease has time and time again provoked suffering and made the local population fragile. In Hawaii, the Pentagon is concerned with the resilience of its military installations, whether or not these will hold against rising sea levels and more weather calamities.
“The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water,” the report said. “These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”
“The Department of Defense’s primary responsibility is to protect national security interests around the world,” officials said in a news release announcing the report’s submission. “This involves considering all aspects of the global security environment and planning appropriately for potential contingencies and the possibility of unexpected developments both in the near and the longer terms.
“It is in this context,” they continued, “that the department must consider the effects of climate change — such as sea level rise, shifting climate zones and more frequent and intense severe weather events — and how these effects could impact national security.”
The Pentagon is very apt at identifying threats. No one can deny this. Personally, I feel that it would be a lot more constructive and helpful if the Pentagon also took steps to help curb the problem. The US Military is the primary polluter in the world’s second highest polluting country.
“Many conflicts throughout our history have been based on resource competition,” said General Charles Jacoby, who was the commander of the US North Command – the primary line of defence against invasion for the US mainland – until last year. He said that this competition would only intensify in the future, with energy and water supply at the top of the list.