Jay Gulledge

National security leaders deal with deep uncertainty on a daily basis about everything from North Korea’s ability to produce a nuclear weapon to the location and timing of the next terrorist attack by non-state actors such as ISIS and al-Qaida. Security decision-makers don’t use uncertainty as an excuse to ignore security threats.

Borrowing a page from security analysts, a new report out today by renowned climate experts and high-level government advisors from China, India, the United Kingdom and the United States assesses the risks of climate change in the context of national and international security.

Climate Change: A Risk Assessment by David King, Daniel Schrag, Zhou Dadi, Qi Ye and Arunabha Ghosh first examines different categories of risk, all with significant uncertainties.

The general conclusions are:

    EMISSIONS: Without increased political commitment and an acceleration of technological innovation, global emissions are likely to follow a medium to high pathway: continuing to increase for the next few decades, and then levelling off or decreasing gradually.

    DIRECT RISKS: The risks of climate change are non-linear: while average conditions may change gradually, the risks can increase rapidly. On a high emissions pathway, the probability of crossing thresholds beyond which the inconvenient may become intolerable will increase over time.

    SYSTEMIC RISKS: The risks of climate change are systemic. The greatest risks may arise from the interaction of the climate with complex human systems such as global food markets, governance arrangements within states, and international security.

After considering these risks in much greater detail than provided here, the authors concluded with three general recommendations:

1.       The risks of climate change should be assessed in the same way as risks to national security or public health.

2.       The risk assessment should involve a wide range of experts (i.e. policy analysts and energy experts, political leaders, scientists, and national security experts).

3.       The risk assessment should report to the highest level of government (as security assessments do).


Please read the full article here.


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