Climate security

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Map of the Earth with a six-meter sea level rise represented in red (uniform distribution, actual sea level rise will vary regionally). Hotspots of SLR can divert 3-4 times in the rate of rise, compared to the global average, such as projected for parts of the U.S. East Coast.[1]

Climate security describes serious threats to the security of people, ecosystems and prosperity of countries, due to climate warming, and climate actions to adapt and mitigate impacts.[2]


USDA, projected changes in food prices, depending on emissions scenarios, also factoring trade

During the 70's and 80's the Jason advisory group, concerned with security, conducted research on climate change.[3] Climate change has been identified as a threat multiplier, which can exacerbate existing threats.[4] A 2013 meta-analysis of 60 previous peer-reviewed studies, and 45 data sets concluded that, "climate change intensifies natural resource stresses in a way that can increase the likelihood of livelihood devastation, state fragility, human displacement, and mass death."[5] The 2014 report, by the CNA Military Advisory Board, "National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change" re-examined the impact of climate change on U.S. national security. The report concluded that climate change is a growing security threat.[6]

In the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), The Pentagon stated:

The QDR will set a long-term course for DOD as it assesses the threats and challenges that the nation faces and re-balances DOD’s strategies, capabilities, and forces to address today’s conflicts and tomorrow’s threats.

"Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."[7]

A 2015 report published by the White House found that climate change puts coastal areas at risk, that a changing Arctic poses risks to other parts of the country, risk for infrastructure, and increases demands on military resources.[8] The NATO stated in 2015 that climate change is significant security threat and ‘Its Bite Is Already Being Felt’.[9]

The 2016 Global Risks Report by the World Economic Forum, concluded that forced migration and climate change are the biggest risks for the global economy.[10]

In 2016, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper noted:[11]

Unpredictable instability has become the “new normal,” and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future…Extreme weather, climate change, environmental degradation, rising demand for food and water, poor policy decisions and inadequate infrastructure will magnify this instability.

The Global Security Defense Index on climate change evaluates the extents of governments in considering climate change to be a national security issue.[12]

A 2015 Pentagon report has pointed out how climate denial threatens national security.[13] As part of the United States National Defense Authorization Act the U.S. Congress asked the Department of Defense for a report on climate matters. The report was published in 2019, and notes, "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense (DoD or the Department) missions, operational plans, and installations."[14]

The 2017 Global Catastrophic Risks report, issued by the Swedish Global Challenges Foundation, highlighted a broad range of security-related topics, among them climate change, and concluded that global warming has a high likelihood to end civilization.[15]

The 2018 Worldwide Threat Assessment report states:[16]

The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and the past few years have been the warmest years on record. Extreme weather events in a warmer world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages. Research has not identified indicators of tipping points in climate-linked Earth systems, suggesting a possibility of abrupt climate change.

The Global Risks Report 2019 by the World Economic Forum, cited climate change among the most concerning issues. As part of the report a survey cited extreme weather, lack of climate action and natural disasters as the main three problems.[17]

Climate change[edit]

A report in 2003 by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall, looked at potential implications from climate-related scenarios for the national security of the United States, and concluded, "We have created a climate change scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would challenge United States national security in ways that should be considered immediately." Among the findings were:

"There is a possibility that this gradual global warming could lead to a relatively abrupt slowing of the ocean's thermohaline conveyor, which could lead to harsher winter weather conditions, sharply reduced soil moisture, and more intense winds in certain regions that currently provide a significant fraction of the world's food production. With inadequate preparation, the result could be a significant drop in the human carrying capacity of the Earth's environment."[18]

Researchers studying ancient climate patterns (paleoclimatology) noted in a 2007 study:

We show that long-term fluctuations of war frequency and population changes followed the cycles of temperature change. Further analyses show that cooling impeded agricultural production, which brought about a series of serious social problems, including price inflation, then successively war outbreak, famine, and population decline.[19]

A 2013 review by the U.S. National Research Council assessed the implications of abrupt climate change, including implications for the physical climate system, natural systems, or human systems. The authors noted, "A key characteristic of these changes is that they can come faster than expected, planned, or budgeted for, forcing more reactive, rather than proactive, modes of behavior."[20]

A 2018 meta study cited cascading tipping elements, which could trigger self-reinforcing feedbacks that progress even when man-made emissions are reduced, and which could eventually establish a new hothouse climate state. The authors noted, "If the threshold is crossed, the resulting trajectory would likely cause serious disruptions to ecosystems, society, and economies."[21]


Studies identified uptake in mortality due to extreme heat waves. Extreme heat conditions can overcome the human capacity to thermo regulate, future scenarios with rising emissions could expose about 74% of the world population for at least twenty days per year to lethal heat events.[22]

Psychological impacts[edit]

A 2011 article in the American Psychologist identified three classes of psychological impacts from global climate change:[23]

  • Direct - "Acute or traumatic effects of extreme weather events and a changed environment"
  • Indirect - "Threats to emotional well-being based on observation of impacts and concern or uncertainty about future risks"
  • Psychosocial - "Chronic social and community effects of heat, drought, migrations, and climate-related conflicts, and postdisaster adjustment"

Consequences of psychosocial impacts caused by climate change include: increase in violence, intergroup conflict, displacement and relocation and socioeconomic disparities. Based on research, there is a causal relationship between heat and violence and that any increase in average global temperature is likely to be accompanied by an increase in violent aggression.[23]


In a 2016 article, published by the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, the author suggested that conflict over climate related water issues, could lead to nuclear conflict, involving Kashmir, India and Pakistan.[24] Based on reviewing 60 studies on the subject of climate change and conflicts, additional to warmer temperatures, more extreme rainfall could increase interpersonal violence by 4%, and intergroup conflict by 14% (median estimates).[25] The violent herder–farmer conflicts in Nigeria, Mali, Sudan and other countries in the Sahel region have been exacerbated by climate change.[26][27][28]

Experts have suggested links to climate change in several major conflicts:


Setup of a solar shade canopy for humanitarian aid and disaster relief. The solar shade has the potential to provide enough energy for continuous 24-hour use.


At least since 2010, the U.S. military begun to push aggressively to develop, evaluate and deploy renewable energy to decrease its need to transport fossil fuels.[39] Based on the 2015 annual report from NATO, the alliance plans investments in renewables and energy efficiency to reduce risks to soldiers, and cites the impacts from climate change on security as a reason.[40]

In politics[edit]

Barack Obama characterized the global agreement, following the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference as a national security issue.[41] During the United States presidential election, 2016, Bernie Sanders made the topic a centerpiece of his campaign.[42] In early of 2017, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis said that budget cuts would hamper the ability to monitor the impacts of climate change,[43] and noted, “..climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response.”[44]


Many parts of governments or state leaders acknowledge climate change as a problem for national security:

United Nations level[edit]

The UN Security Council first debated climate security and energy in 2007 and in 2011 issued a presidential statement expressing concern at the possible adverse security effects of climate change. There has been a series of informal Arria-Formula meetings on issues related to climate change. In July 2018, Sweden initiated a debate on Climate and Security in the United Nations Security Council. The UN supported plan of action to address humanity's greatest challenges as evaluated during the decennial Earth Summits - Agenda 21 and the Global Goals - to address the issue by dedicating a Global Goal to it: "Goal 13: Climate Action".[45]

European Union level[edit]

"The European Council’s conclusions on climate diplomacy.. that Climate change is a decisive global challenge which, if not urgently managed, will put at risk ... peace, stability and security."[46] In 2014, David Cameron noted, "Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world",[47] A 2018 article in UK's The Independent argues that the U.S. Trump administration is ‘putting British national security at risk’, according to over 100 climate scientists.[48] The Intelligence on European Pensions and Institutional Investment think-tank published a 2018 report with the key point, "Climate change is an existential risk whose elimination must become a corporate objective".[49]

United States level[edit]

Barack Obama stated in 2015, "Climate change is a national security issue" [50] The same year former United States Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel mentioned, "Climate Change is a national security problem"[51] In 2017, the Trump administration removed climate change from its national security strategy.[52] In January 2019 The Pentagon released a report stating that climate change is a national security threat to USA[53]


A 2018 published report by the Australian Senate noted, "climate change as a current and existential national security risk… defined as one that threatens the premature extinction of Earth-originating intelligent life or the permanent and drastic destruction of its potential for desirable future development."[54]


In 2014, Leonardo DiCaprio stated during a United Nations conference, "The time to answer the greatest challenge of our existence on this planet is now. You can make history or be vilified by it."[55] At a 2015 security conference, Arnold Schwarzenegger called climate change the issue of our time.[56]


A RAND Corporation blog noted in 2015, "Climate change can affect conflict around the world in uncertain and complex ways, although we can't establish the magnitude of a causal relationship with confidence. In addition, there are unresolved hypotheses about indirect climate-security linkages, such as destabilization."[57] Climate scientist Michael E. Mann stated in his commentary to the 2018 global heat wave that climate change is a national security nightmare.[58]


The 2010 documentary, Carbon Nation explores climate change solutions. The Guardian noted about Carbon Nation, "The take-home message is that what's good for the climate is also good for the economy, for national security, for health, for nature – and for America."[59] The documentary The Burden argues for a switch from fossil fuel reliances to clean energies from a military perspective. Bob Inglis is quoted, "I see incredible opportunity.... We improve our national security. We create jobs and we clean up the air."[60]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Why the U.S. East Coast could be a major 'hotspot' for rising seas". The Washington Post. 2016.
  2. ^ "Climate Change and National Security". Council on Foreign Relations. 2007.
  3. ^ "Losing Earth: The Decade We Almost Stopped Climate Change". The New York TImes. 2018.
  4. ^ "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change" (PDF). CNA. 2007.
  5. ^ "Climate Change, Conflict and Certainty: New Research in Context" (PDF). The Center for Climate and Security. 2013.
  6. ^ Davenport, Coral (13 May 2014). "Climate change deemed growing security threat by military researchers". The New York Times.
  7. ^ "QDR – the national security challenge of climate change". ASP. 2014.
  8. ^ "4 Reasons Climate Change Affects National Security". AlterNet. 2015.
  9. ^ "NATO: Climate Change Is Significant Security Threat and 'Its Bite Is Already Being Felt'". EcoWatch. 2015.
  10. ^ "Climate Change Now Top Security Threat AND Top Economic Threat – GOP Ignores It". PoliticusUS. 2016. Archived from the original on 2016-01-22.
  11. ^ "Worldwide Threat Assessment: Climate Magnifying Instability". The Center for Climate and Security. 2016.
  12. ^ "The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change". ASP. 2014.
  13. ^ "The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk". Rolling Stone. 2015.
  14. ^ "New Pentagon Report: "The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue"". Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  15. ^ "Seven in 10 Brits support 'world government' to protect humanity from global catastrophes". The Independent. 2017.
  16. ^ "A Spy's Guide to Climate Change". The New York Times. 2018.
  17. ^ CNBC. "Global tension is hampering our ability to fight climate change, Davos survey warns". Retrieved January 18, 2019.
  18. ^ Peter Schwartz & Doug Randall (2003). "An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and its Implications for United States National Security" (PDF). Archived from the original (PDF) on 2009-03-20.
  19. ^ Zhang, D.; Brecke, P.; Lee, H.; He, Y.; Zhang, J. (2007). "Global climate change, war, and population decline in recent human history". Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America. 104 (49): 19214–19219. Bibcode:2007PNAS..10419214Z. doi:10.1073/pnas.0703073104. PMC 2148270. PMID 18048343.
  20. ^ Abrupt Impacts of Climate Change: Anticipating Surprises. The National Academies Press. 2013. doi:10.17226/18373. ISBN 978-0-309-28773-9.
  21. ^ Steffen; et al. (2018). "Trajectories of the Earth System in the Anthropocene". PNAS. 115 (33): 8252–8259. doi:10.1073/pnas.1810141115. PMC 6099852. PMID 30082409.
  22. ^ Mora; et al. (2017). "Global risk of deadly heat". Nature Climate Change. 7 (7): 501–506. doi:10.1038/nclimate3322.
  23. ^ a b Doherty, Thomas J.; Clayton, Susan (2011). "The psychological impacts of global climate change". PsycNET. 66 (4): 265–276. doi:10.1037/a0023141. PMID 21553952.
  24. ^ "Kashmir, climate change, and nuclear war". Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. 2016.
  25. ^ Solomon M. Hsiang; Marshall Burke; Edward Miguel (2013). "Quantifying the Influence of Climate on Human Conflict". Science. 341 (6151): 1235367. doi:10.1126/science.1235367. PMID 24031020.
  26. ^ "How Climate Change Is Spurring Land Conflict in Nigeria". Time. 28 June 2018.
  27. ^ "In Mali, waning fortunes of Fulani herders play into Islamist hands". Reuters. 20 November 2016.
  28. ^ "Farmer-Herder Conflicts on the Rise in Africa". ReliefWeb. 6 August 2018.
  29. ^ Borger, Julian (2007-06-22). "Darfur conflict heralds era of wars triggered by climate change, UN report warns". The Guardian.
  30. ^ Biello, David (2009-11-23). "Can Climate Change Cause Conflict? Recent History Suggests So". Scientific American.
  31. ^ "Sudan Post-Conflict Environmental Assessment" (PDF). United Nations Environment Programme. June 2007.
  32. ^ Merchant, Brian (2014-09-04). "How Climate Change Warmed Syria Up for War". Motherboard. Archived from the original on 2014-10-16.
  33. ^ Plumer, Brad (2013-09-10). "Drought helped cause Syria's war. Will climate change bring more like it?". The Washington Post.
  34. ^ Gleick, Peter (July 2014). "Water, Drought, Climate Change, and Conflict in Syria". Weather, Climate, and Society. 6 (3): 331–340. doi:10.1175/WCAS-D-13-00059.1. ISSN 1948-8335.
  35. ^ Ahmed, Nafeez (2014-05-09). "Behind the rise of Boko Haram - ecological disaster, oil crisis, spy games". The Guardian.
  36. ^ Sayne, Aaron (2011). "Climate Change Adaptation and Conflict in Nigeria" (PDF). United States Institute of Peace.
  37. ^ Maystadt, Jean-François; Ecker, Olivier (October 2014). "Extreme Weather and Civil War: Does Drought Fuel Conflict in Somalia through Livestock Price Shocks?". American Journal of Agricultural Economics. 96 (5): 1157–1182. doi:10.1093/ajae/aau010.
  38. ^ "Climate variability and conflict risk in East Africa measured". University of Colorado Boulder. 2012-10-22.
  39. ^ "U.S. Military Orders Less Dependence on Fossil Fuels". The New York Times. 2010.
  40. ^ "NATO: Renewable Energy Can Save Soldiers' Lives". EcoWatch. 2016.
  41. ^ "President pushes transition from 'dirty energy'". E & E Publishing LLC. 2016.
  42. ^ "Where they stand: On climate change, difference between parties is stark". Concord Monitor. 2016.
  43. ^ "Secretary of Defense James Mattis: The Lone Climate Change Soldier in this Administration's Cabinet". Union of Concerned Scientists. 2017.
  44. ^ "US Defence Secretary James Mattis says climate change is already destabilising the world". The Independent. 2017.
  45. ^ CLIMATE ACTION: Take urgent action to combat climate change and its impacts
  46. ^
  47. ^ "David Cameron: 'Climate change is one of the most serious threats facing our world'". businessGreen. 2014.
  48. ^ "Donald Trump UK visit: US president is 'putting British national security at risk', say over 100 top climate scientists". The Independent. 2018.
  49. ^ "Climate risk: Running out of time". IPE. 2018.
  50. ^ "Climate Change is a National Security Issue". White House. 2015.
  51. ^ "Chuck Hagel: Climate Change Is a National Security Problem". 2015.
  52. ^ "Trump's national security agenda to have big environmental impacts on both borders". Grist. 2018.
  53. ^ Lorraine Chow, Lorraine (18 January 2018). "Pentagon: Climate Change Is Real and a 'National Security Issue'". Ecowatch. Retrieved 20 January 2019.
  54. ^ "Implications of climate change for Australia's national security". Australian Senate. 2018. pp. Chapter 2.
  55. ^ "Leonardo DiCaprio at the UN: 'Climate change is not hysteria – it's a fact'". The Guardian. 2014.
  56. ^ "Schwarzenegger: Climate change is 'the issue of our time'". MSNBC. 2015.
  57. ^ "Climate Change Is a National Security Issue, but Not for the Reasons You Think". RAND. 2015.
  58. ^ "Expert: Climate Change is a National Security Nightmare". Climate State. 2018.
  59. ^ "Will Carbon Nation succeed where An Inconvenient Truth failed?". The Guardian. 2011.
  60. ^ "The Burden: New Documentary Illustrates Impacts of Fossil Fuels on the U.S. Military". NRDC. 2015.

External links[edit]