Is climate change a security risk?

Climate change is a “threat multiplier,” exacerbating existing risks to security.

The threat comes not from climate change itself, but rather, from how it interacts with existing security conditions. In this context, climate change presents both direct and indirect threats to human, national, and international security.

Direct threats: Climate change has a direct impact on security through its effect on the critical infrastructure underpinning a nation’s security. This includes sea level rise risks to military installations that can degrade a nation’s ability to conduct military operations, as well as extreme weather events that can devastate essential energy, financial and agricultural centers that undergird a nation’s economic viability. In some cases, as with some low-lying small island states, sea level rise presents an existential threat.

Indirect threats: Climate change also presents an indirect threat to security by increasing stresses on the critical resources underpinning a nation’s security, including water, food and energy. These stresses can degrade a nation’s capacity to govern. Decreases in water, food and energy availability can devastate livelihoods, and contribute to a broad range of destabilizing trends, including internal population displacements and migrations, and political unrest. These pressures in turn can contribute to state fragility, internal conflict and potentially state collapse. Climate change can also indirectly change or disrupt existing international security dynamics in geostrategic environments, such as the Arctic and the South China Sea.

By placing strains on the infrastructure and resources necessary for the viability of the nation-state system and the well-being of its populations, and by physically changing the geostrategic environment, climate change presents a risk to both national and international security.

Read More:

2014: “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change,” CNA Corporation
2014: Climate and Security 101: Why the U.S. National Security Establishment Takes Climate Change Seriously, Center for Climate and Security
2012: Climate Extremes: Recent Trends With Implications for National Security, Harvard University
2012: Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis, Steinbruner, J., Stern, P., Husbands, J.  National Research Council.
2012: Climate Security Report. Foley, C. and Holland, A. American Security Project
2011: Defense Science Board Task Force Report: Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security: Department of Defense
2010: Study Group on the Implications of Climate Change, Memo 15, “The Security Implications of Climate Change” Council for Security Cooperation in the Asia-Pacific (CSCAP)
2008: National Intelligence Assessment (NIA) on the National Security Implications of Climate Change to 2030. Statement for the Record of Dr. Thomas Finger, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council. House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming
2007: National Security and the Threat of Climate Change, CNA
2007: Climate Change and National Security. An Agenda for Action. Busby, Joshua.  CSR No. 32. Washington: Council on Foreign Relations
2007: World in Transition. Climate Change as a Security Risk. Executive Summary. German Advisory Council on Global Change. Berlin
2007: Climate Change and Foreign Policy. Drexhage, John et al.  Winnipeg: International Institute for Sustainable Development (IISD)
2007: Foreign policy and national security implications of global climate change.  CSIS. Washington
2001: Security and Climate Change. Barnett, Jon.  Tyndall Centre Working Paper 7