Center for Strategic Communication

ASP’s CEO Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret.) wrote an op-ed for TakePart on the threats that climate change present to America’s national security. Gen. Cheney argues that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier,” – it has the potential to exacerbate existing tensions. From Mali to the Arab Spring to America’s homeland security, climate change contributes to instability through drought, wildfires, severe storms, and rising sea levels. From the article:

The effects of this temperature change are severe. Climate change is usually presented as an environmental problem, but the consequences—and the consequences of the consequences—present real national security threats to the United States.

First, climate change generates new security risks around the world. Although climate change may not directly cause violent conflict, it acts as “an accelerant of instability” or a “threat multiplier.” That is, it makes conflict more likely, or intensifies conflict already underway. For example, climate change wreaked havoc on Mali, a poor, dry Saharan nation with an unstable government. As rivers dried up and agricultural production suffered, Al-Qaeda-linked militants capitalized on instability and overthrew the government in 2012. We cannot say that climate change has caused conflict in Mali, but it clearly multiplied the already existing threats.

Another example is the record-breaking wildfires in Russia in 2010 that led to a severe shortage of grain. Russia restricted grain exports in response, leading to a spike in food prices worldwide. High food prices exacerbated discontent in many Middle Eastern countries, which fanned the flames in the months leading up to the “Arab Spring.” Fragile governments around the world are at risk of environmental catastrophes—a prolonged drought, or a sudden flood—and climate change increases the probability that such events occur.

To read the full article, click here.