How climate change denial threatens national security

Wired reports: In a cramped meeting room Wednesday on Capitol Hill, House Democrats hosted a roundtable to discuss climate change with several national security experts. In attendance were two former admirals, a retired general, a once-ambassador to Nigeria, and the former undersecretary to the Secretary of Defense.

Over several hours of questioning, they described how climate change would escalate instability across the globe and make it harder for the US military to conduct its operations. Nothing they said, however, was all that new. In fact, the Department of Defense has known about, and sometimes planned for, the security threats created by climate change for well over a decade. Congressional Democrats—minority members of the House Science Committee—called the roundtable as a plea to the Republican-led Congress to stop standing in the way of the military’s preparations for the heightened dangers of a warming world.

One of the key phrases here is “threat multiplier.” Coined about a decade ago by panelist Sherri Goodman, a former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense, it means climate change will raise the stakes for existing conflicts, and push unstable communities toward catastrophe. Case study: the Syrian Civil War, rise of ISIS, and Syrian refugee crisis began in part because of a climate change-linked drought that began in 2006. “Droughts affected the Syrian harvests, compounded by historically poor governance and water management,” says Marcus King, a professor of international affairs at George Washington University. This caused migrations of farmers into the cities, where they had neither jobs nor food. The violent protests for both became rallying cry against repressive president Bashar Assad. The protests became riots, then insurgency, and eventually full-blown chaos.

The threat multiplier paradigm is appearing in other places. Guatemala already has problems with food security, and many regions are still left ungoverned after that country’s not-so-distant civil war. Rising seas are bringing saltwater incursion to Egypt’s Nile Delta, adding food insecurity to that country’s already tense political situation. And in Nigeria’s capital city of Lagos, nearly half of the 22 million residents live below sea level and will eventually have to relocate—unlikely to be easy or conflict-free. “This isn’t a political issue for the defense community,” says Ann Phillips, a retired admiral and an advisor for the Center for Climate and Security. “We in this community are pragmatic and mission-focused.” [Continue reading…]

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