The extreme weather events including wildfires, floods, droughts, and sea level rise have reportedly increased the threat to health, infrastructure, and security. In the United States Intelligence Community’s 2019 assessment of threats to US national security, the intelligence community warned about the danger the climate change and other environmental degradation currently poses to global stability as they are “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”
The Worldwide Threat Assessment prepared by Daniel R. Coats, the Director of National Intelligence released on Tuesday. It pointed out the ways, climate change fuels widespread insecurity and also how it erodes America’s ability to respond to it.
“Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security,” as per the report representing the consensus among top intelligence officials.
Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.
A new Pentagon report submitted to Congress by a new Department of Defense some days before also highlighted the climate change vulnerabilities at 79 key military facilities that include threats from wildfires, flooding, drought, and increasingly severe weather. Responding to it, Congress asked for the list of the 10 most vulnerable facilities in each armed services branch.
A recommendation was given by the Government Accountability Office to resume training to U.S. diplomats considering climate change and migration to the State Department. A scientific paper concluded that drought and the subsequent issues over water resources due to climate change increased the likelihood of armed conflict in the Middle East between 2011and 2015 and triggered waves refugees.
A discussion was held by the United Nations Security Council on Friday to understand the role of climate change as a “threat multiplier” in countries with fragile governance and inadequate resources and how to respond to it.
A permanent observer to the UN from the International Committee of the Red Cross, Robert Mardini confirms the “double impact” of climate change and war as per his group’s fieldwork.
According to his published remarks, Mardini told the Security Council “Climate change exacerbates vulnerabilities and inequalities, especially in situations of armed conflict, where countries, communities and populations are the least prepared and the least able to protect themselves and adapt. Conflicts harm the structures and systems that are necessary to facilitate adaptation to climate change.”
However, President Donald Trump denies the established consensus in the formal threat assessment on climate change. In the 4th National Climate Assessment last November, based on the findings of 300 scientists and 13 federal agencies, the administration concluded that climate change threatened human life, ecosystems and the American economy which Trump dismissed.
Trump tried to halt rules and research to address climate change through federal agencies like the Environmental Protection Agency. However, the White House did not restrain the national security community to acknowledge climate change or exploring the implications of climate change by its agencies so far.
Besides, members of Congress from both parties have also instructed the Pentagon to analyze the threats climate change poses to American military facilities.
Regions under Climate-Related Risks
The 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment highlighted that climate change poses a threat to “human security” and includes terrorism, weapons of mass destruction, and cyber crimes. The areas of concern are:
- The extreme weather and sea level rise could aggravate urban coastal areas of South Asia, Southeast Asia, and the Western Hemisphere. It says “damage to communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life.” (Hurricane Michael inflicted multi-billion dollar disasters on Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base last year)
- Countries like Jordan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Iraq are at increasing risk of social unrest and cross-border tension due to “changes in the frequency and variability of heat waves, droughts, and floods—combined with poor governance practices—are increasing water and food insecurity.”
- The receding sea ice in the Arctic “may increase competition—particularly with Russia and China— over access to sea routes and natural resources.”