Early Warning & Risk Analysis
North America
Rear Admiral David Titley

It’s all about the water.

Okay, it’s partly about food and energy, too. But from a national security perspective, climate change is all about the water: where it is or isn’t, how much or how little there is, how quickly it changes from one state (e.g., solid ice to liquid water) to another.

Because of the effects of climate change in the Arctic, for the first time in 500 years we’re opening a new ocean to navigation. The last guy who did that was Christopher Columbus.

Until 2005, the Arctic Polar ice cap consisted mostly of multi-year ice — ice that had formed two or more years before the date of measurement and was generally 2 to 4 meters (6.6 to 13 feet) thick and much harder to break through than first-year ice. Since 2007, most Arctic ice is now less than a year old and less than one meter thick. Climate scientists now expect that by 2030 much of the Arctic Ocean will be free of ice several months a year, opening it for commercial navigation just as the Baltic Sea is now.

The opening of the Arctic is the most immediate national security challenge presented by climate change. Except for submarines, the U.S. Navy has not operated widely on the surface of the Arctic Ocean; neither has anyone else. The Arctic is poorly charted and therefore dangerous to navigation. There’s very little infrastructure and it’s an extremely harsh operating environment.

Will the Bering Strait between Russia and Alaska start to take on the characteristics of the Strait of Hormuz in the Persian Gulf through which much of the world’s oil passes, or the Strait of Malacca, the main shipping channel between the Indian and Pacific Oceans? Will it become a global hot spot for international tensions? As the Navy increasingly patrols the Arctic Ocean, what happens to our ability to patrol the western Pacific?

For the complete article, please see Cognoscenti.

Source:
Cognoscenti
Climate Diplomacy
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