“The risks of climate change demand a rethink of approaches to security,” writes Chris Abbott in An Uncertain Future: Law Enforcement, National Security and Climate Change
, a report released recently by Oxford Research Group. Climate change’s impact on security concerns has recently moved to the forefront of global dialogue, a development Abbott links to three trends: widespread acceptance of scientific evidence that climate change is real; increased attention to energy security; and growing awareness of nontraditional threats around the world.
Abbott claims that three likely socio-economic impacts of climate change—damaged infrastructure, resource scarcity, and mass displacement of people—could easily lead to civil strife, intercommunal violence, and international instability. For instance, he warns that major problems should be expected where small, affluent populations live next to large, poor ones—a contention U.S. and Mexican leaders, among others, should take note of.
Law enforcement and police should prepare for four key climate-related developments, says Abbott:
In addition, he argues, military planners will need to study four crucial operational and strategic issues:
- Demands for greater border security;
- Changes in rates and types of crimes, due to large-scale migration;
- The need to enforce newly enacted climate-related laws; and
- The need to respond to increasingly frequent natural disasters.
Although Abbott’s report does not add new information to the existing body of research on climate change and security, it does helpfully summarize several developments that leaders in government, law enforcement, and the military will need to study and prepare for. In addition, Abbott should be commended for repeatedly eschewing alarmist responses to climate change’s security challenges and instead urging a pragmatic and humane approach.Rachel Weisshaar contributed to this report.
- Difficulties maintaining the soundness of equipment and weaponry and the health of military personnel in a changed climate;
- Loss of defense assets (for instance, military bases on low-lying islands or coasts that will need to be relocated);
- More frequent peacetime deployments, particularly for disaster relief; and
- Instability in strategically important regions, such as the Horn of Africa or the Persian Gulf.