New Report From Military Leaders Calls Climate Change “Catalyst for Conflict”May 15, 2014 By Schuyler Null
The report, authored by a group of more than a dozen retired general and admirals from the U.S. Army, Navy, Air Force, and Marine Corps, is the follow-up to an influential 2007 report that recommended defining climate change as a national security threat.
“This is the second time CNA has gotten very senior-level military leaders together to take a look at climate change and understand what it means for security; not to be climate scientists, which they are not, but to be national security leaders and look at this issue through their lens,” says ECSP Senior Advisor and Ohio University Professor Geoff Dabelko in an interview with Wilson Center NOW. “In some ways their tools are familiar in applying to climate change – they need to understand about uncertain threats that could have multiple outcomes, and they need to plan for unknown probability, but [with] potentially really high negative outcomes.”“Without action to build resilience in the most vulnerable parts of the world, the projected impacts of climate change will likely serve as catalysts for conflict”
The interactions between climate change and security are complex: “it matters where we’re talking about, and it can manifest in different ways,” says Dabelko. “There are ways to respond but in some cases, because we haven’t been responding and haven’t integrated this additional challenge into what are already some big challenges, they’re rising to the level of security concerns.”
Climate change has often been described as a “threat multiplier”; indeed, the first CNA report helped popularize the phrase. But the new report goes a step further, introducing the more aggressive term, “conflict catalyst.” “We believe that without action to build resilience in the most vulnerable parts of the world, the projected impacts of climate change will likely serve as catalysts for conflict,” the authors write.
The Military Advisory Board notes that many of the risks they identified in 2007 have gotten worse and more complex in the years since, while discussions about what to do have become so polarized they’ve “receded from the arena of informed public discourse and debate.”
Can this new report have an impact? “I think so, if the last one is any indicator,” says Dabelko. “It played a big role in drawing a wider set of eyes to the problem, decision-makers as well as the general public. It is one where it’s important who is saying it.”
Video Credit: Wilson Center NOW.