On May 20, 2015, President Obama gave the commencement speech for the 2015 graduating class of the Coast Guard academy. In his speech, the President explained how climate change will impact the careers of the graduating officers:
“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us. Climate change will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, today and for the long-term.”
The American Security Project was a pioneering institution in identifying that climate change will act as a “threat multiplier” or an “accelerant of instability” for conflict around the world. While no one expects that a rise of a few degrees of temperature alone will cause wars, we do see that the effects of climate change (sea level rise, greater incidence and severity of extreme weather, and changes in water availability) will impact other areas of security (water security, food availability, and others), causing societies to react in unpredictable ways – potentially impacting other security problems. In this way, climate change accelerates already existing security risks.
These remarks come just before the White House’s release of its May 2015 report, assessing “The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate.” The report explains how climate will present new challenges to the U.S. military for maintaining security in the future:
“These impacts increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future defense missions, requiring higher costs of military base maintenance and impacting the effectiveness of troops and equipment in conflict. Assessments are currently underway by the Department of Defense (DOD) to determine the national resources necessary to respond to these growing threats to U.S. national security.”
ASP has studied how climate change will impact the security environment in which the U.S. military must operate in, identifying new risks around the world, from migration and food insecurity in Africa, rising seas in South Asia, more violent storms across the Pacific, and threats to infrastructure here at home. The American military must plan for these eventualities.
The President is right to identify climate change as a security risk, and that this is not simply a ‘messaging’ tool: the White House is responding to demands from the military services and the Combatant Commanders in helping to plan for the effects of a changing climate.
Climate Security Report: