How Does Climate Change Affect National security?

There are many different aspects to the national security policy of a nation. National security leaders agree that climate change is one of the greatest threats to US national security. It is a threat of explosive magnitude that is having a strategic impact in the present times and is seen to impact the future. Climate change impacts global environmental stability by threatening cities on the coastal lines of continents, jeopardizes military readiness, and creates various humanitarian crises in impoverished nations, and is a factor that contributes to an increased risk of war between nations battling for resources. The communities worldwide are experiencing negative impacts due to extreme weather events, food and water shortages, and rising sea levels. Faced with these security risks, the U.S. should provide strong leadership in reducing climate change inducing pollution, leading towards response strategies helping the U.S. prepare for it and reducing its impacts on the community.

Climate Change as a Security Risk

According to military and intelligence officials, climate change is a security risk for the US. According to these officials, climate-related impacts will increase stresses abroad, in the form of poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions. In turn, such implications lead to increased terrorist activity in the forms of violence against vulnerable communities and regions.

Threats to Military Bases

A report by the National Intelligence Council pointed out that many U.S. military bases overseas are located in coastal regions where they face an imminent threat of rising sea levels and storm surges. The world’s most extensive naval base, Naval Station Norfolk, is already experiencing regular tidal flooding with the prospects of nearly daily flooding by the mid of this century. As sea levels continue to rise, scores of other installations, including Portsmouth Naval Shipyard or Bath Iron Works, will be facing disruptive and potentially destructive impacts.

Increased Burden on the DoD

As a result of climate change, military personnel responsible for natural disaster response and assisting in humanitarian crises face an increased burden. For example, after Hurricane Sandy, the Pentagon mobilized 24,000 personnel to help with emergency response efforts. Such endeavors are already costly and can interfere with the combat readiness costs that may escalate due to climate change.

Water Stress and Conflict over Resources

One may feel the effects of climate change with agricultural production and livestock harmed by heat waves, droughts, fires, and extreme weather events. Climate change will have a significant impact on millions worldwide who may face water shortages resulting in conflict over these resources and increased potential for “weaponizing” access to freshwater supplies. Many governments face challenges that could threaten their ability to meet basic needs putting people at greater risk of conflicts within or between nations.

Climate Change and Conflict

While climate change alone does not create or cause conflict, it can act as a catalyst for instability in regions that are already under various forms of stress. Because of this, military officials have labeled climate change a “threat multiplier,” and Secretary Mattis stated: “Climate change is impacting stability where our troops are operating today.”

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