[ by Charles Cameron — some personal background, a roundtable video, DOD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, and further readings ]
Although I’ve been interested in religious responses to ecological issues since the 1980s, when my friend (and Friend) Marshall Massey proposed the creation of a Quaker environmental organization, I suppose I first really picked up on the natsec aspect of global warming after David Stipp posted The Pentagon’s Weather Nightmare in Fortune, January 26, 2004. The subhead for that piece:
The climate could change radically, and fast. That would be the mother of all national security issues.
Then there was Philip Jenkins‘ article, Burning at the Stake, published in 2007. Jenkins is a distinguished historian of religions, known to me for such books as The Next Christendom: The Rise of Global Christianity, Hidden Gospels: How the Search for Jesus Lost Its Way, and particularly, given my own interests, Mystics and Messiahs: Cults and New Religions in American History. He wrote:
When John of Patmos listed the four horsemen of the apocalypse, he didn’t have access to climate-modeling software or any of the technology used by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. If he had, he might have described the end of times in slightly more specific terms. And, to know what those terms would be, you just have to look at the area approximately between the latitudes of 23 degrees north and 23 degrees south over the next 50 or so years.
Over the next half-century, this equatorial swath will be broiling from global warming. Droughts will kill crops, and warming oceans will cripple the fishing industry (decimating the populations of fishing villages that will be disappearing, anyway, because water from the melting ice caps will drown them). By midcentury, water shortages could force countries already suffering from generations of ethnic and religious conflict to explode. A country like Nigeria, for example, where Christians and Muslims have self-segregated to the Southeast and the North, might erupt in a violent tug-of-war over limited water supplies. The Coptic Christians in Egypt could become a lost people, as ethnic cleansing in the name of resource protection becomes common. By the same token, Muslim minorities in places like Uganda and Kenya might be annihilated or driven out, creating vast waves of refugees that will swarm the more prosperous countries looking for aid (in response to which Western countries could see a new era of harsh border enforcement). Gradually, whole areas would become arid, uninhabitable wastelands.
One signiicant para:
In fact, the looming crisis has provoked some surprisingly radical actions by conservative Christians. The most famous of these is probably Richard Cizik, vice president of governmental affairs for the National Association of Evangelicals, an umbrella organization whose affiliate groups claim 30 million members. In the past five years, Cizik has become an outspoken advocate of “creation care,” a doctrine rooted in the Bible that urges environmental protection, with global climate change as the clear and present danger. Cizik has called climate change “a phenomenon of truly Biblical proportions”–and one, therefore, that demands action on a similarly Biblical scale. Recognizing the pivotal importance of Africa in the Christian future, prominent evangelicals such as Rick Warren have become deeply committed to global South issues.
Fast forward to the end of last month, when Climate Week NYC was held at the Empire State Building. BG Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret) appeared in the panel, “Climate conversation: National security and climate change” (see video above), and pointed out:
Climate change is not a problem that the military can solve; only a global commitment to reduce emissions will solve this problem. Until then, military planners will be forced to deal with ever-worsening consequences. Policymakers must rise to the challenge.
Also on the panel were RAdm Neil Morissetti RN (ret.), former Commander of the United Kingdom Maritime Forces, and MG Muniruzzaman (ret.), now President of the Bangladesh Institute for Peace and Security Studies. SecState John Kerry delivered the keynote.
The DOD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap was released yesterday:
Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.
In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.
A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.
Of particular note:
In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier”…
That’s SecDef Chuck Hagel in his Foreword to the report. He also says:
Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning.
Misc further readings:
- Charles Cameron, Cross-grain thinking, 3: ASP’s Report on Climate Security
- Defence Science Board, Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security
- Center for Climate and Security, Climate and Security 101: Why the U.S. National Security Establishment Takes Climate Change Seriously
- NYT, C.I.A. Closes Its Climate Change Office
- American Security Project, Climate Change is an Issue of National Security
- Juan Cole, Ansar Dine and How Climate Change Contributed to the Algeria-Mali Crisis
- CNA Military Advisory Board, National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change
- NCA, Climate Change Impacts in the United States: The Third National Climate Assessment
Tomorrow, Wed October 15 2014 at 7-9pm in Room 101, Hartung Hall, Anderson University, 1100 E Fifth St., Anderson, IN 46012: Climate Change: Risks for National Security.