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Climate change is a problem that has been persisting for a very long time; however, the professional and collective effort directed at its minimization has appeared only in the recent decades when the researchers began to focus on the environmental trends, systematic changes, and observable negative effects. Since the problem was relatively new and unknown, it took a while for the researchers and experts to prove that it existed and presented a serious threat to the global society.
Also, it took a while for them to gain attention of the world’s leaders in the spheres of politics and business and ensure their support in the effort of searching for ways to resolve the problem. Today, the solutions to climate change are still highly complicated and often seem impossible due to the involvement of a wide range of factors and determiners, as well as the global nature of the phenomenon and call for the international agreements and joined efforts as the basis for the successful solutions.
In this paper, the issue of climate change will be linked to national security for the purpose of establishing connections between the two topics and pointing out that much needs to be done in this regard. In particular, the principles and policies regarding climate change and national security will be discussed, as well as the new understanding of climate change issues as not the ones requiring a response to threats as they appear but the ones aimed at control and prevention of such threats.
Climate change is a problem that is bigger than it seems at first glance. The observable change in the global climate is often presented to be just 2 degrees Celsius and depicted as something minor and almost unnoticeable (Holland). However, the 2 degrees warming induced by the increased amount of greenhouse gases trapped in the atmosphere serves as a major root cause of a wide range of other effects that are much more adverse than a warmer air temperature.
In particular, according to the findings of the National Institute of Health Sciences, the contemporary effects of climate change include rising sea levels, extreme heat waves, an increased chance of floods, droughts, and hurricanes, and poor quality of air – the outcomes that have both direct and indirect impacts on people’s physical and mental health (NIHS).
These manifestations of climate change occur all around the globe in the developing, as well as the developed countries, and thus making it very clear that a massive collective effort is needed in order to address them. Moreover, the magnitude and sudden nature of such manifestations make the effects of climate change a problem of national security. While climate change cannot explicitly start military conflicts, it is recognized as threat multiplier and an accelerant of instability; these characteristics mean that climate change tends to aggravate the threats that already exist and worsen such problems as the scarcity of natural resources and food, water insecurity, extreme weather, natural disasters, and epidemics (ASP).
Climate change is known as a ring road issue – the one that aggravates the problems that are deemed more important as the national security concerns (endemic diseases, water and resources scarcity, terrorism, energy security, and migration) (Holland).
When it comes to the extreme impacts induced by anthropogenic climate change related to national security, one of the most memorable and tragic examples from the US history is the destruction brought by hurricane Katrina that hit New Orleans in 2005 (Busby 1). In particular, the storm resulted in a massive amount of damage by destroying properties, killing almost 2000 people and displacing almost 300 000; in order to respond to an emergency of this magnitude, the US military and National Guard had to be mobilized, which, in turn, affected the military operations carried out by the United States at the international level; finally, the disaster had a serious negative effect on the crude oil production, as well as the refinery capacity of the United States, and thus leading to the drop in GDP (Busby 1).
This is an example of a climate change-induced catastrophe that happened in one of the leading developed countries in the world, whose response was criticized as slow and unprepared to deal with this amount of damage. However, similar disasters have been occurring all around the world and hitting the states that do not have resources as advanced as the USA; as a result, their losses are even greater.
As specified in “National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030” prepared by the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming in 2008, “climate change alone is unlikely to trigger state failure in any state out to 2030, but the impacts will worsen existing problems—such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions (Fingar 4-5).
Moreover, the American experts also believed that “climate change could threaten domestic stability in some states, potentially contributing to intra- or, less likely, interstate conflict, particularly over access to increasingly scarce water resources” and provoke such social changes as economic migrations due to the aggravating economic conditions in the poorer states (Fingar 5). In addition, climate change could also drive migrations caused by diseases and other negative health effects such as the decreasing quality of air due to toxic emissions exposing populations to such health threats as cardiovascular disease, asthma, and other respiratory and lung conditions (NIEHS).
Regionally, the manifestations of climate change are expected to differ; for instance, sub-Saharan Africa is seen as one of the most vulnerable areas for this problem due to the increasing water scarcity that could trigger geopolitical conflicts; in Asia, the change in climate is likely to cause elevated precipitation levels causing floods aggravated by the rising sea level – these effects could seriously damage infrastructures and agricultural economies and result in health concerns due to endemic diseases; moreover, floods are a persisting danger to the countries of Europe located near the seas (Fingar 9-10). The domestic economic and political problems caused by the damages induced by the climate change would be likely to cause internal conflicts and destabilize weaker democracies (Busby 6-10).
How the Problem Is Addressed
As one of the world’s most economically and socially developed countries and a pioneer in the solutions to a variety of the emerging issues, the United States focused attention on the problem of climate change many years ago by means enabling research in regard to the potential threats and risks that anthropogenic climate change could bring. In addition, the creation of the respective committees involved in the investigation of the problems of climate change in reference to national security has allowed the leaders of the United States to make a prediction as to what should be expected in regard to this problem in the nearest decades.
The challenges and concerns expressed in the “National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030” are multiple; also, they cover a wide range of aspects of the political, social, and economic natures among others. In particular, in this report, the author noted that to a certain extent, the United States is likely to benefit from the global warming due to the lengthening of the growing season which is a confirmed expectation that is likely to increase the financial power and success of the American farming business (Fingar 5, NASA).
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However, at the same time, as the United States is tightly connected to some other countries due to the constant trade and exchange of resources, communication, transportation, and financial transactions, the effects induced by climate change could disrupt this flow of relations by means of affecting at least one of many countries in this network or by damaging the means needed for communication (sea routes, energy and resources supplies); in turn, such course of events would not only impact the national economy of the United States but also change the geopolitical balance in the world (Fingar 7).
Since the consequences of climate change mentioned above are only predictions at this stage, the policies directed at the minimization of national security impacts of climate change do not have enough practical facts on which they could be based. As a result, it is recommended that the state leaders prioritize the so-called “no regret” policies – the ones that would not turn out to be a mistake if the impacts of climate change prove to be less severe than expected (Busby 11).
For example, policies related to strengthening the security of the areas vulnerable to hurricanes and floods are relevant regardless of the effects of climate change because natural disasters remain a threat anyways. Also, one of the conferences and summits dedicated to the concerns of national security in relation to environmental concerns are seen as some of the most productive investments that could potentially result in benefits for the United States, as well as for the leaders of the partnering states (Busby 11-12).
The policies of this type have been quite effective enabling the US to cooperate with several states of Asia and the Middle East, fostering trading and military partnerships and agreements (Busby 11-12).
Another principle according to which the US leaders address the climate change problems linked to national security is the one aiming at multiple domains (Busby 12). Practically, this principle presents the long-term investments in the national infrastructure that would enable all the necessary construction needed for its strengthening to withstand versatile threats from natural disasters and climate change impacts to potential terrorist attacks (Busby 13). This upstream approach is very efficient as it aims at the prevention of problems, thus saving budget costs. Some other policies designed to minimize the possible effects of climate change on the US national security are directed at shoring up energy security and gaining more independence in regard to oil and gas production (Busby 12).
A lot of research has been done in regard to the links between national security issues and climate change; the problem is claimed to be proved to exist and produce multiple adverse effects on the countries all around the world. There exists a number of policies the US could put into practice or emphasize in order to improve its national security in regard to potential threats presented by climate change.
However, among the economic and social complications slowing down the solutions of this problem there exist a significant challenge in the form of the lack of awareness and acceptance of this problem by many political leaders, and the Republican Party that is currently at power in the US in particular.
ASP. “Climate Security: Building National Security.” American Security Project, n.d. Web.
Busby, Joshua W. “Climate Change and National Security.” CFR, 2007. Web.
Fingar, Thomas. “National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030.” FAS. 2008. Web.
Holland, Andrew. “Global Warming Makes Solving the 21st Century’s Problems Much Harder.” American Security Project. 2013. Web.
NASA. “The Consequences of Climate Change.” Climate NASA. 2017. Web.
NIEHS. “Health Impacts of Climate Change.” NIH. 2016. Web.