climate change and national security

The National Security Impacts of Climate Change

As global sea levels rise and extreme weather events become more frequent and more intense, what is the impact on our nation’s military readiness and the capabilities of its forces to carry out their missions? On both the domestic and international front, the effects of climate change could become catastrophic, overwhelming disaster-response capabilities.

Recent actions and statements by members of Congress and US military officers have drawn attention to the consequences of climate change, including the destabilizing effects of storms, droughts, and floods. Military experts note that the fallout from global warming—massive migrations, increased border tensions, and greater demands for rescue and evacuation efforts—could increase the need for more direct US military involvement.

For these reasons, climate change is increasingly recognized as having national security implications, which has spurred dialogue between the climate change and national security communities. This issue brief, by Brian La Shier and James Stanish, provides an overview of the US military’s position on climate change, and specifically how it defines climate change risks and the subsequent challenges the military branches will likely face in the future. In addition, a brief accounting of Department of Defense and Congressional actions on climate and security is provided.

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