Research on the relationship between climate change and national security

There has been little detailed scientific research on the direct and indirect impacts of climate change on national, international, or human security. Such research will require broadly interdisciplinary efforts, enhanced understanding (through observations and modeling) of the effects of climate change around the globe, empirical studies of impacts on both natural and human systems, and analyses of effective mechanisms for developing response strategies—in short, virtually all of the research that is needed to support other aspects of improved understanding discussed in previous chapters. To connect this improved understanding of general climate change impacts with security-specific concerns, research will also be needed on the relationships among environmental changes, social instability, and other threat multipliers. Such research is methodologically challenging because data are often limited in quality and quantity and the analysis needs to take account of thresholds, nonlinearities, and contextual and interaction effects. Nonetheless, given the prominence of climate change in recent discussions of national security and vice versa, it seems appropriate to dedicate additional resources to develop a coordinated program of research in the area.

Development of improved observations, models, and vulnerability assessments for regions of importance in terms of military infrastructure. There is an opportunity for considerable cooperation and synergy between the climate change research and national security communities. Improved regional climate projections and risk-management approaches are two important needs that these communities could work together to address. The needed research ranges from hydrological cycles at high latitudes and their implications for military operations to "war game" scenarios with climate-related crises.

Research on monitoring requirements for treaty verification. While considerable progress has been made in monitoring GHG emissions for climate research purposes, less is known about the operational observation standards that may be needed to meet treaty monitoring and verification requirements, and this is an active area of assessment, research, and planning (NRC, 2009h). Additional research and cooperation among communities is needed to determine the optimal mix of in situ and space-based civilian, military, and intelligence assets and the best data assimilation and analysis techniques to translate collected data into robust and reliable verification tools.

Identification of potential human insecurity in response to climate change impacts interacting with other social and environmental forces. Vulnerability analyses and better metrics are needed to identify people and places that might be expected to suffer the greatest harm from climate-related impacts—both individually and collectively. Of particular value would be metrics or observational approaches that can provide leading indicators of areas at risk, to help support preventive measures or anticipatory provision of humanitarian aid, or contribute to increased resilience. Moreover, new methods are needed to understand and predict interactions of climate change impacts, associated environmental changes, and social vulnerabilities, and how they are linked across regions.


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