Climate and National Security

Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world, amplifying existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership and weak political institutions. As a result, U.S. resources will likely be drawn upon more frequently to help provide stability, placing added pressure on our energy resources, borders, military and agriculture production.

According to Admiral T. Joseph Lopez (Ret.), Former Commander-in-Chief, U.S. Naval Forces Europe and of Allied Forces, “…Climate change will provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror. More poverty, more forced migrations, higher unemployment. Those conditions are ripe for extremists and terrorists…”

The severity, pace and scope of global warming trends pose serious threats to the security of the United States and the world.  As the climate changes, scientists warn that the potential for conflict over scarce natural resources will increase. According to the CIA’s National Intelligence Council, as many as 800 million more people will face water or cropland scarcity in the next 15 years.

The economic disruptions associated with global climate change are projected by the CIA and other intelligence experts to place increased pressure on weak nations that may be unable to provide basic needs and maintain order for their citizens.  The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change estimates annual costs from severe weather in damage to property and loss of economic productivity for the United States to be in the tens of billions of dollars.

Twenty percent of the world’s people live in a coastal zone. Sea-level rises and other impacts from climate change could displace more than 400 million people, forcing unprecedented border pressure and mass migration. The IPCC estimates that there could be up to 150 million environmental refugees by 2050 as a result of climate change.

According to General Anthony C. Zinni (Ret.), Former Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command, “…We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.  There will be a human toll…”