First-Ever Climate Report by a Non-Partisan, Security Body Relates Climate Change to Global Instability

First-Ever Climate Report by a Non-Partisan, Security Body Relates Climate Change to Global Instability

A recent report details national and global security threats related to climate change in the hopes that decision-makers and leaders will recognize the relationship between global warming and security.

A non-partisan climate report raises concern for not just climate change, but the affects it will have on global stability. In a comprehensive report released by the “National Security, Military, and Intelligence Panel (NSMIP)” of the Center for Climate and Security, experts warn of High-to-Catastrophic threats to security from climate change.

A call for immediate action against climate change in this day in age is almost becoming a neutralized cry for help. More and more groups, scientists, and activists are speaking up about the issue, but globally, nothing seems to be changing on a big enough scale. The report warns that addressing climate change trajectories will require “quickly reducing and phas[ing] out global greenhouse gas emissions.”

The panel that issued the report is made up of national security, military and intelligence experts, and the group analyzed the globe through the lens of the U.S. Geographic Combatant Commands. It made the following conclusion:

“Even at scenarios of low warming, each region of the world will face severe risks to national and global security in the next three decades. Higher levels of warming will pose catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks over the course of the 21st century.”

The report, titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change: How Likely Warming Scenarios Indicate a Catastrophic Security Future,” is a report unlike any other. By bringing together a panel of security professionals to analyze the security implications of two future warming scenarios (near term: 1-2°C and medium-long term: 2-4+°C). It notes major threats, heightened social and political instability, and risks to U.S. military missions and infrastructure, as well as security institutions, at both warming scenarios and across the world, explains one news release.

The following are some of the report’s key findings:

  1. A near-term scenario of climate change, in which the world warms 1-2°C/1.8-3.6°F over pre-industrial levels by mid-century, would post ‘High’ to ‘Very High’ security threats. A medium-to-long term scenario in which the world warms as high as 2-4+°C/3.6-7.2°F would pose a ‘Very High’ to ‘Catastrophic’ threat to global and national security. The world has already warmed slightly below 1°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures.
  2. At all levels of warming (1-4+°C/1.8-7.2+°F), climate change will pose significant and evolving threats to global security environments, infrastructure, and institutions.
  3. While at lower warming thresholds, the most fragile parts of the world are the most at risk, all regions of the world will face serious implications. High warming scenarios could bring about catastrophic security impacts across the globe.
  4. These threats could come about rapidly, destabilizing the regions and relationships on which U.S. and international security depend.
  5. Climate change will present significant threats to U.S. military missions across all of its geographic areas of responsibility (AORs), as well as to regional security institutions and infrastructure that are critical for maintaining global security.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change also predicts a global rise in temperature—anywhere from 2.5 to 10 degrees Fahrenheit—over the next century, according to NASA.
However, the report does not stop at noting the major climate change concerns and threats to security. It also presents a handful of recommendations to begin building solutions. The key recommendations include:

  1. Mitigating these risks requires quickly reducing and phasing out global greenhouse gas emissions. We call for the world to achieve net-zero global emissions as soon as possible in a manner that is ambitious, safe, equitable, and well-governed, in order to avoid severe and catastrophic security futures.
  2. The world must also “climate-proof” environments, infrastructure, institutions, and systems on which human security depends, and so we call for rapidly building resilience to current and expected impacts of climate change. With future-oriented investments in adaptation, disaster response, and peacebuilding
  3. In the United States, we call for renewed efforts to prioritize, communicate, and respond to climate security threats, and to integrate these considerations across all security planning.

“The negative consequences of continued climate change across the next century will affect security institutions and infrastructure,” said Ambassador Richard Kauzlarich, former National Intelligence Office and U.S. Ambassador. “We must recognize the resulting dire implications for global stability. Without leadership and swift action to prepare for and prevent these scenarios, American interests are at risk.” 

For more specific quotes from members of the National Security, Military and Intelligence (NSMIP), visit the Center for Climate and Security’s news release.

Still, the report goes on to address the topline risks for each geographical area using the U.S. Geographic Combatant Commands. Because each region has varying political environments, ecosystems, and economic elements, the breakdown addresses each region’s threats in areas including political unrest, weather disasters, economic shocks, infrastructure concerns, border security, and other negative impacts on civil and military infrastructure.

Another article by the Weather Channel notes the reports particular concern for the Middle East. The region is likely to experience “dangerous levels of temperature rise,” leading to drought and water shortages that could exacerbate an already tense political environment. It expects Europe see notable and common sea-level rises, droughts, migration and political instability, and threatened infrastructure. For North America, the report expects more extreme weather and wildfires that will affect life, property, and fights for resources.

Other resources related to this topic and the Panel include:

Most reports on climate change and the environment are far from uplifting, and this one takes a national security approach to climate change that is unprecedented. Climate change affects more than animals and natural resources—especially in this interconnected world.

As Francesco Femia and Catilin Werrell from the center’s Council on Strategic Risks put it:

“This underscores a responsibility to prepare for and prevent the security consequences of a changing climate. And you don’t have to take our word for it. Scientists and national security, military and intelligence professionals agree: the risks are potentially catastrophic, and there’s a narrowing window of opportunity to do something about it.”

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