Climate and National Security: Exploring the Connection

Source:  Marshall Institute

Today, the George C. Marshall Institute releases a new report discussing the linkage between anthropogenic climate change and U.S. national security.

Driven by dire predictions derived from the reports of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, concerns about the impacts of anticipated climatic changes have burst onto the national security agenda.

Climate and National Security: Exploring the Connection considers the evidence for the assertion that changing environmental conditions brought on by human emissions of greenhouse gases will negatively impact U.S. national security.

“In my view, an objective review of the evidence shows little support for this argument,” Institute President Jeff Kueter argues.  “Studies of the sources of conflict show plainly that environmental factors rarely incite conflict between states or within states. In fact, experience shows the more probable outcome is cooperation.”

In summary, efforts to link climate change to the deterioration of U.S. national security rely on improbable scenarios, imprecise and speculative methods, and scant empirical support. Accepting the connection can lead to the dangerous expansion of U.S. security concerns, inappropriately applied resources, and diversion of attention from more effective responses to known environmental challenges. The danger of this approach is that it offers a sense of urgency which may not be warranted, given the gaps in the current state of knowledge about climate, the known flaws in the methods used to construct the scenarios on which these security scenarios are based, and confusion over the underlying causes of those security concerns.