Politico by Alex Guillen
Climate change will likely lead to more frequent extreme weather events as well as droughts and floods, triggering serious social and political disruption that poses a potential threat to U.S. national security, a National Research Council report shows.
(see Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis, by the Committee on Assessing the Impacts of Climate Changer in Social and Political Stresses, edited by John D. Steinbruner, Paul C. Stern, and Jo L. Husbands)
“National security decision makers do not like surprises and expect the intelligence community to provide sufficient warning to make it possible to avoid, ameliorate or alter the undesired consequences of emerging developments,” says the report, released Friday. “Fundamental knowledge of climate dynamics indicates that many types of extreme climate events are likely to become more frequent, even though we do not know enough to predict which extreme events will occur where or when.”
Whether a specific event can be attributed to human-caused climate change or natural variations is irrelevant from a national security standpoint, it says. What matters is that those events are becoming more common, largely because of human activity’s contributions to climate change.
Though unpredictable weather events are increasingly damaging and could ultimately prove a security risk by requiring international response efforts, the report is more concerned with long-term disruptions to critical resources and supply chains.
The oil trade provides an example of a global market that is heavily integrated and could be disrupted easily by climate change events.
“Tropical storms and the increased storm surges that result from sea-level rise and, in some cases, land subsidence can disrupt production, refining and transport of petroleum,” the report says. “In addition, because offshore oil and gas platforms are generally not designed to accommodate a permanent rise in mean sea level, climate-related sea-level rise would disrupt production.”
Hurricanes Katrina and Rita in 2005 and Gustav and Ike in 2008 caused global oil spikes after disrupting production, refining and transportation, the report notes.
The report, conducted at the request of the U.S. intelligence community, was set to be released earlier, but it was delayed by Hurricane Sandy.
The U.S intelligence community should support research efforts taking place at agencies across the government that would help project more accurate climate forecasts, particularly for areas of vulnerability and adaptation methods.
National security analysis will have to draw on climate science, political concerns and social science.
“An important need is to integrate the social science of natural disasters and disaster response with other forms of analysis,” the report says.
“This body of knowledge is particularly important for assessing the security consequences of climate change because disruptive climate events will typically be perceived and responded to as natural disasters.”
The U.S. needs to set up a “whole-of-government strategy for monitoring threats connected to climate change,” the report concludes.
Meanwhile, the intelligence community itself should create “stress tests” to evaluate certain countries or supply chains for managing disruptive climate change-related events.
“The intelligence community presumably already uses an analogous process to consider the ability of foreign governments and societies to withstand various kinds of social and political stresses,” the report says. “The results of stress tests would inform national security decision makers about places that are at risk of becoming security concerns as a result of climate events and could be used by the U.S. government or international aid agencies to target high-risk places for efforts to reduce susceptibilities or to improve coping, response and recovery capacities.”