Global climate change will aggravate problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions that threaten stability in a number of countries, according to a report the Defense Department sent to Congress yesterday.
The Senate Appropriations Committee requested the report in conjunction with the Defense Appropriations Act for Fiscal Year 2015, asking that the undersecretary of defense for policy provide a report that identifies the most serious and likely climate-related security risks for each combatant command and the ways those commands integrate risk mitigation into their planning processes.
Fragile States Vulnerable to Disruption
The report finds that climate change is a security risk, Pentagon officials said, because it degrades living conditions, human security and the ability of governments to meet the basic needs of their populations. Communities and states that already are fragile and have limited resources are significantly more vulnerable to disruption and far less likely to respond effectively and be resilient to new challenges, they added.
“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.”
Integrating Climate-Related Impacts Into Planning
To reduce the national security implications of climate change, combatant commands are integrating climate-related impacts into their planning cycles, officials said. The ability of the United States and other countries to cope with the risks and implications of climate change requires monitoring, analysis and integration of those risks into existing overall risk management measures, as appropriate for each combatant command, they added.
The report concludes the Defense Department already is observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America, officials said.