Climate Change May Be a Threat to National Security

national security

Recently, the U.S. government released its third National Climate Assessment, which was compiled by more than 300 experts overseen by a federal advisory committee. The report had somewhat dire, foreboding findings about the current state of our climate. In the past, people were aware that climate change was a possibility, but global warming was also talked about as if it were a far-off, distant thing. Many thought climate change was something our children’s children would have to cope with, and they could keep living unsustainable lifestyles without having to see the results in their lifetime.

However, the assessment found climate change is no longer a distant threat — rather, it’s happening right now. Already, severe storms have become more frequent and the temperature across the United States has risen by 2 degrees on average.

The impacts of climate change are far-reaching. Whether directly or indirectly, all parts of society are affected by global warming. One of the many dangers of climate change is that it poses a risk to national security. A recent report prepared by the CNA Military Advisory Board found climate change is one of the biggest threats to our national security. Here are some of the ways global warming makes the United States — and the rest of the world — a more dangerous place to live.

A Catalyst for Social Unrest

As our climate continues to change, natural resources could diminish in many parts of the world. Global climate change has already increased the amount of conflict in some areas. For example, tensions are running high in the Middle East and Africa, where a drought caused by global warming has decreased the food and water supply. This has put increased pressure on an area where there are already a number of ethnic conflicts. Because of desertification, people have also been displaced from their homes and mass migration has ensued. The dire conditions have led to social unrest, which is already a security threat to the nations’ governments.

Unrest due to climate change is not limited to Africa and the Middle East, either. The rising sea level is a major concern in coastal regions like the Mekong Delta in Vietnam, the eastern part of India and Bangladesh. A higher sea level means supplies are compromised, and people may no longer have homes. Refugees from these areas may reach an all-time high in the next few years.

In our increasingly global society, what affects one part of the world affects all of us. Dire conditions around the world could lead to an increased demand for U.S. troops in foreign countries. This could decrease the number of forces at home, putting our country at greater risk of terrorist attacks.

Terrorism

The CNA’s report draws a strong connection between climate change and an increase in terrorism. In general, climate change has led to increased violence and terrorist activity. Areas with poor social conditions caused by global warming are also prime targets for terrorist takeovers. Al Qaeda is expanding its reach in Africa due in a large part to social unrest caused by climate change. The extremist group has taken over the northern part of Mali, a country ravaged by climate change-induced drought, and continues to cause problems for the Malian government. It goes without saying that the stronger Al Qaeda is, the more our national security is put at risk.

Military Risks

Rising sea levels aren’t just a threat to Asian counties. Many coastal areas in our country also face damage as the global temperature continues to rise. If you’re curious about whether your home will be directly affected by the rising seas, you can check out the Surging Seas app prepared by the federal government.

Many of our nation’s major cities and military bases are unfortunately located close to the water. Norfolk, Va., which houses the world’s largest naval bases, is one of the cities found to be most at risk by the National Climate Assessment. It has a huge nuclear submarine construction yard which could be devastated if the sea level rises even a few feet. If you know anything about load cells or other types of machinery, you know exposure to salt water will all but destroy it. If the government does not take steps to protect or relocate these bases, our military could take a huge hit.

Fortunately, the Armed Forces don’t plan to sit idle while changing climate ravages out country. Although the CNA report doesn’t give many specifics, the military is working to develop cost-effective solutions for the problems it faces. With any luck, these solutions will hopefully lead to a greener, more secure future for all of us.

Image by Surian Soosay

Author: COURTNEY GORDNER