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Climate Change Threatens National Security


“The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced,” according to National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, a recent report issued by the CNA Military Analysis Board. (p. iii)

CNA is a think tank that works with the U.S. military. One of their missions is to investigate and analyze emerging security threats, and help the U.S. military develop solutions and responses. The Military Advisory Board consists of 11 retired Generals and Admirals who first came together in 2007 to examine the security implications of climate change. They returned to the issue and published a new report because the intervening years have improved the science and brought the implications into clearer focus.

There are several advantages to this report. First, the authors understand the interaction of infrastructure, technology, personnel, and logistics.Second, they are not likely to be emotionally invested in the environment as a value in-and-of itself, thus illuminating the issue from a different perspective. Third, they focus less on climate science and more on how our nation and our systems are likely to be impacted. Finally, by profession they are accustomed to making decisions that affect the lives of large numbers of people, and they are accustomed to having to do it with imperfect or conflicting information. As the report states, “If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen…” (p. 1)

Some major bullet points from the report:

“Actions by the United States and the international community have been insufficient to adapt to the challenges associated with projected climate change.” (p. 1)

“Climate change impacts are already accelerating instability in vulnerable areas of the world and are serving as catalysts for conflict.” (p.2)

© MCT 2012“Rising temperatures across the middle latitudes of the world will increase the demand for water and energy. These growing demands will stress resources, constrain development, and increase competition among agriculture, energy production, and human sustenance…Stresses on the water-food-energy nexus are a mounting security concern across a growing segment of the world.” The graphic at right illustrates the interaction. (p.3)

(Click on graphic for larger view.)

“Projected climate change impacts inside the borders of the United States will challenge key elements of our National Power and encumber our homeland security.” (p.3)

“Projected climate change will impact all 16 critical infrastructure sectors.” These impacts will “threaten all elements of our National Power – from security, to the economy, to the availability of vital goods such as food, water, and health services.” The nation’s energy infrastructure is especially vulnerable. (p. 4)

“We are already seeing the impacts of climate change…In some cases, the impacts are developing faster than we predicted. Action is needed now.” (p.7)

Readers may want to pause at this point and consider what is being said here. I believe that America has amazing adaptive resources. but if we don’t take action, these military leaders say, the results will be very serious.


CNA Military Advisory Board. 2014. National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change. Alexandria, VA: CNA Corporation. https://www.cna.org/reports/accelerating-risks.

1 Comment

  1. […] but I suspect that the basic findings would apply here, as well. In fact, I already reported (here) that in 2014 the CNA Military Advisory Board concluded that climate change would become one of the […]

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