Climate Change and National Defense

Friday, 13 February 2015: 10:00 AM-11:30 AM
Room 220C (San Jose Convention Center)
Lee Gunn, CNA Corp., Alexandria, VA
The nature and pace of observed climate changes, and an emerging scientific consensus on their projected consequences, pose severe risks for our national security.

CNA’s Military Advisory Board (MAB) first addressed the national security implications of climate change in their 2007 report – National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. They gathered again in 2014 as a group of 16 retired Generals and Admirals from the Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps to re-examine climate change in the context of a more informed, but more complex and integrated world and in May of 2014, published National Security and the Accelerating Risk of Climate Change. During their decades of experience in the U.S. military, these Admirals and Generals have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. They concluded that the national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges they have faced.

The international security landscape is changing while climate change accelerates, and the two are related – from food shortages due to drought in already unstable regions, to nations being threatened by sea level rise and extreme weather, to the need for better preparation and cooperation as we develop commerce in a rapidly melting Arctic.

Rapid population growth, especially in coastal and urban areas, and complex changes in the global security environment make understanding the strategic security risks of projected climate changes more vital and at the same time more challenging.  The impacts of projected climate change are not constrained to any one region and in an interconnected, complex world there will be cascading effects which must be considered.

            At home, critical infrastructure and other elements that support our National Power are at risk from the projected impacts of climate change.  We need better planning tools to focus resilience efforts.  Military installations on the coasts, and the communities upon which they rely, face threats from higher sea and extreme storms. 

            We know the impacts of climate change have arrived, and are only going to get worse.  Our military, already operating leaner due to budget constraints, will face increased demands to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, both at home and abroad, and to respond to a wider spectrum of climate related conflicts.  Climate change is an accelerating risk to our national security.