Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Climate Change a Threat to National Security?

Traditionally the United States becomes active on a global scale when its crucial interests are at stake somewhere, no matter how remote the setting.  Could climate change be one of those issues that has a direct impact on U.S. interests?  Does it really threaten U.S. citizens?

According to an Economist article entitled "Adapt Or Die," the public is coming to terms with the fact that global climate change cannot be reversed or ameliorated, but that it can start planning adaptation to a changing global climate.  This July, the Senate reportedly set aside $20 million for "international adaptation efforts."  While this sum and legislation is more of symbolic nature than an actual promising approach to the problem, it does show that mindsets are evolving towards coping with the problem and not trying to solve it.  This past summer, the UN also dealt with the details of the first carbon tax for global adaptation. 

Adaptation efforts derive from the realization that climate change cannot be stopped and that it hits the poorest of the poor.  In the future, we can expect an increase in extreme weather (storms, drought, floods), rising temperatures and a rising sea level.  This has a disproportionate impact on the poorest people on this earth and those in island states, about 1 billion in 100 countries, according to the article.  It impacts what these people depend on the most: agriculture, fishing and tropical forests.  Many poor nations see climate change as a problem of the wealthy nations that cause it, but nevertheless, they have to deal with its direct impact.  They have to cope with a lack of money for reconstruction efforts and dependence on help for food and medical treatment of infectious diseases.

China, Brazil and India lead negotiations on climate change for the developing countries, but they have very different interests from the poorest developing nations because they are big polluters themselves.  The Kyoto Protocol famously rewards industrial nations that cut their emissions, but there is no reward or incentive for the very poor, such as for good management of tropical forests.

Now this is all good, but the average American still seems skeptical about the direct impact of climate change on his life, except for maybe during hurricane season, which has been around for some time.  Well, if droughts or floods cause civil strife and turmoil in developing nations and threaten state stability, this can cause anger with the billion poor and give incentive for hostile actions against industrial nations.  This can affect U.S. citizens at home, influence U.S. military operations and heighten overall global tensions.  A study conducted by a military panel in 2007 on 
"National Security and the Threat of Climate Change," states that climate change "acts as a threat multiplier in already fragile regions of the world, creating the breeding grounds for extremism and terrorism." It points out that climate change can lead to an increased risk of mass migration, an increase in border tensions, conflicts over resources, and a possible increased expectation for direct U.S. military involvement.  Thus, it will impact U.S. national security.

While it is too late to stop climate change, the U.S. should improve its effort to seriously try to adapt to the new global and national circumstances and to plan ahead in order to prevent foreseeable escalations in the future and to improve its national security.

1 comment:

OMARCOMIN! said...

Eh, it was cold the other day, there's no global warming