Defence establishments around the world increasingly see climate change as posing potentially serious threats to national and international security, according to a review of high-level statements by the world’s governments released here Thursday.
The review, “The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results,” found that nearly three out of four governments for which relevant information is available view the possible effects of climate change as a serious national security issue.
In many nations, the armed forces are the most respected arm of government, and their action on climate change can raise awareness throughout the country.
It found that the wealthy developed countries of North America, Europe and East Asia, including China, have made the most progress in integrating climate change into their national security strategies.
With the notable exception of India, leaders of South Asian countries have also made strong statements about the security threats posed by climate change, while smaller countries in the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Central America have expressed alarm at the possible catastrophic impacts of climate change on them, according to the review.
It was officially released at the this week’s Climate Security Conference in the Asia-Pacific Region in Seoul, South Korea by the American Security Project (ASP), a non-partisan group headed by former senior U.S. government and military officials.
The Index, which will go online later this spring and be constantly updated, will catalogue official documents and statements by national governments – and particularly their military establishments — about the relationship between climate change and security issues.
“In many nations, the armed forces are the most respected arm of government, and their action on climate change can raise awareness throughout the country,” according to ASP’s Andrew Holland, who co-authored the report with Xander Vagg.
The review’s release comes amidst growing frustration among both climate scientists and activists over the slow pace and weakness of multilateral and unilateral efforts to curb the emission of greenhouse gases that contribute to global warming.
Governments’ failure to take stronger action has been attributed in part to the fact that climate change has been seen primarily as an environmental issue. As such, it has been accorded a lower priority than other challenges faced by countries, particularly economic growth.
In recent years, however, governments in a growing number of countries have recognised climate change as a national security issue – a recognition welcomed by activists who believe it should bolster their efforts to push the issue up the national and international agenda.
Here in the U.S., such an effort has been underway for some time. Just last month, a bipartisan group of 38 former senior and cabinet-level U.S. foreign policy officials, military officers, and lawmakers published an “open letter” to President Barack Obama and Congress calling for urgent action, especially in funding programmes designed to help poor countries both curb emissions and adapt to climate change.
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The European Green Deal has made the environment and climate change the focus of EU action. Indeed, climate change impacts are already increasing the pressure on states and societies; however, it is not yet clear how the EU can engage on climate security and environmental peacemaking. In this light, and in the run-up to the German EU Council Presidency, adelphi and its partners are organising a roundtable series on “Climate, environment, peace: Priorities for EU external action in the decade ahead”.
In January 2020, the German Federal Foreign Office launched Green Central Asia, a regional initiative on climate and security in Central Asia and Afghanistan. The aim of the initiative is to support a dialogue in the region on climate change and associated risks in order to foster regional integration between the six countries involved.
Climate change will shift key coordinates of foreign policy in the coming years and decades. Even now, climate policy is more than just environment policy; it has long since arrived at the centre of foreign policy. The German Foreign Office recently released a report on climate diplomacy recognizing the biggest challenges to security posed by climate change and highlighting fields of action for strengthening international climate diplomacy.
A high-level ministerial conference in Berlin is looking at the impact of climate change on regional security in Central Asia. The aim is to foster stronger regional cooperation, improve the exchange of information and form connections with academia and civil society.