Cover of 'The Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG): Briefing Book for a New Administration', released 14 September 2016. Graphic: CSAG

By by Idrees Ali, with additional reporting by Steve Holland; editing by Yara Bayoumy and David Gregorio
14 September 2016

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The effects of climate change endanger U.S. military operations and could increase the danger of international conflict, according to three new documents endorsed by retired top U.S. military officers and former national security officials.

"There are few easy answers, but one thing is clear: the current trajectory of climatic change presents a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security, and inaction is not a viable option," said a statement published on Wednesday by the Center for Climate and Security, a Washington-based think tank.

It was signed by more than a dozen former senior military and national security officials, including retired General Anthony Zinni, former commander of the U.S. Central Command, and retired Admiral Samuel Locklear, head of the Pacific Command until last year.

They called on the next U.S. president to create a cabinet level position to deal with climate change and its impact on national security.

A separate report by a panel of retired military officials, also published on Wednesday by the Center for Climate and Security, said more frequent extreme weather is a threat to U.S. coastal military installations.

"The complex relationship between sea level rise, storm surge and global readiness and responsiveness must be explored down to the operational level, across the Services and Joint forces, and up to a strategic level as well," the report said.

Earlier this year, another report said faster sea level rises in the second half of this century could make tidal flooding a daily occurrence for some installations.

Francesco Femia, co-founder and president of the Center for Climate and Security, said the reports show bipartisan national security and military officials think the existing U.S. response to climate change "is not commensurate to the threat". [more]

Climate change 'significant and direct' threat to U.S. military: reports


Washington, DC, 14 September 2016 – Three separate bipartisan groups of senior military and national security experts, including many who served under Republican or Democratic administrations, today issued a statement and two major reports urging a robust new course on climate change. This included a Climate Security Consensus Project statement, a Climate and Security Advisory Group Briefing Book for a New Administration, and a Military Expert Panel report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission.

“These reports make it crystal clear. To national security and defense leaders, there’s absolutely nothing political about climate change. It’s a security risk, it makes other security risks worse, and we need to do something big about it.” Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, Co-Presidents at the Center for Climate and Security

National Security Leaders Urge Action: Climate Security Consensus Project Statement

The Climate Security Consensus Project, a bipartisan group of twenty-five senior military and national security experts, many of whom served under past Republican or Democratic administrations, issued a letter of consensus stating that “the effects of climate change present a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security and international security” and urging a “comprehensive policy” in response. This group includes Dr. Geoffrey Kemp, former Special Assistant to President Reagan for National Security Affairs, Dov S. Zakheim, Former Under Secretary of Defense under President George W. Bush, retired Army General Gordon R. Sullivan, Former Army Chief of Staff, retired Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, former Commander of US Pacific Command, and retired General Ron Keys, Former Commander of Air Combat Command, among many others.

“National security leaders always have to account for risk. As long as there is a risk of climate change, we must account for its potential implications for our military capabilities and respond accordingly.”  – Hon. Dov Zakheim, Former Under Secretary of Defense (Comptroller) under President George W. Bush

At the heart of the statement is a concern about risks to regions of the world of strategic significance to the United States – risks that can contribute to political and financial instability on an international scale, as well as maritime insecurity. As the statement notes: “Stresses resulting from climate change can increase the likelihood of intra or international conflict, state failure, mass migration, and the creation of additional ungoverned spaces, across a range of strategically-significant regions, including but not limited to the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and the Arctic regions.”

“Our military and intelligence leadership have recognized under both the George W Bush and the Obama Administrations, that climate change will present real and costly risks to our national security and that the effects are going to get worse if we don’t do something about it very soon. As General Douglas MacArthur warned about the dangers of unpreparedness for war, we don’t want to be too late.”Geoffrey Kemp, Senior Director for Regional Security, Center for the National lnterest, former Special Assistant to President Reagan for Nat’l Security Affairs

Solutions: Climate and Security Advisory Group Briefing Book for a New Administration

The Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG), a bipartisan group of forty-six senior military, national security and foreign policy experts chaired by the Center for Climate and Security and the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, released a briefing book calling on the next President and key cabinet members to “comprehensively address the security risks of climate change at all levels of national security planning.”

“The national security community has focused on the intersection of climate risk and security for over a decade. The conclusions are clear: climate risks are accelerating in their likelihood and severity.  The next administration, whomever is elected, has the duty and obligation as Commander in Chief to manage this risk in a comprehensive manner.” – Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (ret), Member, The Climate and Security Advisory Group

The group recommendations include: “Assigning a cabinet-level official to lead on domestic climate change and security issues; Establishing senior climate security leadership within the offices of the National Security Advisor and Secretary of Defense; Directing the Secretary of Homeland Security to develop a National Adaptation and Resilience Strategy, and; Prioritizing climate change in intelligence assessments.”

“As our Director of National Intelligence recently stated: ‘in the coming decades, an underlying meta-driver of unpredictable instability will be…climate change.’ That’s why we’re recommending that the next Commander-in-Chief take a comprehensive approach to combating climate change and its impact on U.S. national security, defense and foreign policy interests.” –Hon. Sherri Goodman, Member, The Climate and Security Advisory Group

Risks: Military Expert Panel Report on Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission

A Military Expert Panel from the Center for Climate and Security, including senior retired flag officers from each of the Armed Services, issued a report concluding that sea level rise risks to coastal military installations are already being experienced, are likely to increase significantly throughout the century, and present serious risks to military readiness, operations and strategy.

“For the United States to remain strong and ready, we must ensure that our military and federal first responder capabilities can withstand and adapt to sea level rise. There isn’t a region in the world where rising seas don’t affect our military readiness and operations, and complicate our ability to do our job.  For our Coast Guard this is particularly true as they are embedded in the communities they serve and doubly impacted at home and at work.” – Vice Admiral Rob Parker, U.S. Coast Guard (ret), Military Expert Panel Member, the Center for Climate and Security

Fully 1,774 of the U.S. military’s coastal domestic and international military installations face risks from sea level rise and extreme weather. If not sufficiently mitigated, these risks may have wide-ranging effects on the military’s ability to effectively fulfill its mission. The report assesses the effects of sea level rise across military infrastructure domestically and globally, and the implications on the ability to train, mobilize, operate and fulfill strategic objectives.

“The military’s job is to keep Americans safe from immediate and long term threats. In that role, we don’t have the luxury of choosing to wait until all of the data is in… on anything… we have to keep our risk to a manageable level. For us, sea level rise is going to impact some critical military basing, training, and ability to deploy and in some cases even operate.  If the next Commander in Chief wants to prioritize national security, seal level rise has to be in the list of threats.” – General Ronald Keys, U.S. Air Force (ret), Military Expert Panel Member, the Center for Climate and Security

The Military Expert Panel report concludes that policies and plans for addressing climate change risks must go beyond infrastructure resilience, and into the realm of operations and strategy. The authors recommend that policy-makers support comprehensive and preventive measures to address increasing risks from sea level rise. Recommendations include: building capacity to address infrastructural, operational and strategic risks, gaming out catastrophic climate scenarios in planning; tracking trends in climate impacts, and; collaborating with adjacent civilian communities.

The Climate Security Consensus Project Statement, the Climate and Security Advisory Group Briefing Book for a New Administration, and the Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel report are being launched today, September 14 at the Reserve Officers Association Headquarters in Washington, DC at an event hosted by the Center for Climate and Security in partnership with the Center for the National Interest and the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. The event includes military and national security leaders from across the political spectrum, and will also involve a screening of a new climate and security documentary, The Age of Consequences.

Climate Security Consensus Project Statement: climateandsecurity.org/consensus

CSAG Briefing Book for a New Administration: climateandsecurity.org/briefingbook

Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission: climateandsecurity.org/militaryexpertpanel

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The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) is a non-partisan security policy institute with a distinguished Advisory Board of military, national security and foreign policy experts.

Release: 3 Bipartisan Groups of Military and Security Leaders Urge New Course on Climate

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