National and Human Security

Over the past three decades, a number of concerns have emerged about potential interactions between global environmental change and security. Changes in temperature, sea level, precipitation patterns, and other aspects of the climate system can add substantial stresses to infrastructure and especially to the food, water, energy, and ecosystem resources that societies require. Several recent reports have argued that responding to climate change is a critical part of the U.S. national security agenda (Table 16.1). This assessment arises from concerns about how climate change directly affects military operations and regional strategic priorities, as well as the possible links between environmental scarcity and violent conflict, the role of environmental conservation and collaboration in promoting peace, and relationships between environmental quality, resource abundance, and human security.1

Questions decision makers are asking, or will be asking, about climate change and security include the following:

• How will changes in the physical environment, natural resources, and human well-being influence human security, interactions, and conflicts among nations, and the national security of the United States?

• Through what measures and interventions can we increase human security?

• What are the most critical implications of climate change for U.S. military operations and their supporting infrastructure?

• How will international GHG treaties be verified, what are the treaty provisions for onsite inspections in all signatory countries, and how will potential violations be detected and investigated in denied territories?

• What role should the U.S. intelligence community and the remote sensing infrastructure it supports contribute to these efforts, and what can be learned from previous treaty verifications efforts?

This chapter summarizes how climate change and our responses to it may affect U.S. military operations and international relations. The chapter also outlines the role of climate science in verifying international treaties and in analyzing human security. The last section lists research needs for studying the relationships between environmental change and security.

1Human security is defined as freedom from violent conflict and physical want (see Khagram and Ali [2006] for one recent review and synthesis).


TABLE 16.1 A Summary of Recent Studies Related to National Security and Climate Change Commissioned by Congress or Undertaken by Nonprofit and University Research Centers





National Security and the 2007 Threat of Climate Change

The Age of Consequences, 2007 Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change

The CNA Corporation

Campbell et al., Center for New American Security

A board of U.S. Military retired flag and general officers provide a perspective on the potential national security implications of climate change.

A projection and discussion of three (expected, severe, and catastrophic) potential climate scenarios as viewed through the eyes of national security and foreign policy.

The Arctic Climate Change and Security Policy Conference, Final Report and Findings


Yalowitz et al.,



Impact of Climate Change 2009a on Colombia's National and Regional Security

Climate-Related Impacts on 2009 National Security in Mexico and Central America, Interim Report

Socioeconomic and Security 2009 Implications of Climate Change in China, Conference Paper

National Security Implications 2010e of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces: Letter Report

Catarious and Espach, The CNA Corporation

The Royal United Services Institute

The CNA Corporation

National Research Council

Results and findings from a December 2008 conference on the subject of Arctic climate change and security policy, as addressed through an international group of academics, scientists, government officials, and representatives of indigenous peoples.

Projected impacts of climate change on Colombia's natural systems and resources and potential follow-on regional effects.

An examination of potential climate change impacts in Mexico and Central America, and their projected political, social, and security implications.

An examination of the security implications of climate change in China from Chinese, American, and British Perspectives.

First component of a study to assess the implications of climate change for the U.S. Naval Services.

TABLE 16.1 Continued





Lost in Translation: Closing the 2010 Gap between Climate Science and National Security Policy

Rogers and Gulledge, Center for New American Security

Explores the gap between the science and policy communities and offers recommendations for collaboration to ensure the United States can effectively plan for the national security implications of climate change.

The following National Intelligence Council (NIC) Conference Research Reports are intelligence community documents summarizing the security and geopolitical implications of climate change from the perspective of a specific country.

India: The Impact of Climate 2009c NIC-CR 2009-07 Change to 2030—Geopolitical May 2009


China: The Impact of Climate 2009a NIC-CR 2009-09 Change to 2030—Geopolitical June 2009


Russia: The Impact of Climate 2009f NIC-CR 2009-16 Change to 2030—Geopolitical September 2009


The following NIC Commissioned Research Reports are intelligence community examinations of the security and geopolitical implications of climate change from the perspective of a specific country. Analysis includes impacts on stability of the governments and the economic vulnerability of each country.

China: The Impact of Climate 2009b Change to 2030

India: The Impact of Climate 2009d Change to 2030

Russia: The Impact of Climate 2009g Change to 2030

Southeast Asia and Pacific 2009h Islands: The Impact of Climate Change to 2030

North Africa: The Impact of Climate Change to 2030







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