What they found when they first approached the U.K. defense establishment in 2006, was surprising. “They opened [that] door wide open and said, ‘actually, you know what, we’ve been looking at this, we’ve been concerned about this for a long time, and we’ve already started including it in our long-term planning and strategic thinking.’”
“One of the reasons that the defense community has been looking at this issue is that they have a longer-term vision, if you like, than other departments,” Feakin said. “They have to think about procurement decisions which are going to be stretching out…up to 30 years into the future, so there are bigger demands on them to be thinking about these kinds of strategic issues.”
Feakin co-authored International Dimensions of Climate Change, a 2011 report for the British government which highlights the security threats and challenges, both internal and external, that the U.K. will face as result of climate change.
While the defense community acknowledged the need to include climate change in their planning processes, members of the policymaking community expressed concern that they did not, “have enough detailed understanding of what this [climate change] is going to mean in a security paradigm,” said Feakin. To meet that need, RUSI has been conducting regional and country-based studies in order to determine how things might play out.
Dialogue on the issue has transcended Great Britain and is now taking place among member states of the European Union, although Feakin notes that, “there’s perhaps more hesitancy in terms of framing the debate in the security paradigm and perhaps a slight perception that it might be leading us down the wrong path when mitigation efforts should be at the top of the order of play.”
Despite these ongoing debates, Feakin believes that the security aspect of climate change helps to “make a comprehensive case that we have a situation that does have to be dealt with and there are going to be multiple players in that.” Efforts to address climate change will be civilian-led, but the defense community will play an important supporting role in the future, he said.
“It’s something we have to plan for and we will be part of the response.”