The National Security Impacts of Climate Change

climate change and national security

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.

By Brian La Shier

Brian La Shier leads the Environmental and Energy Study Institute’s (EESI) Energy and Climate Program. La Shier has previously worked at the Virginia General Assembly, the Office of Management and Budget, and the Department of Energy. He holds an MS in Environmental Policy from the University of Michigan and a BS in Integrated Science and Technology from James Madison University.

By James Stanish

James Stanish worked as a Policy Intern with the Environmental and Energy Study Institute during Summer 2017, where he focused on environmental migration and framing climate change around bipartisan issues. Before that, he worked as a Development Intern with Refugees International. He now works as a Government Relations Fellow with the US Soccer Foundation, working to promote evidence-based sports and nutrition programming for underserved youth to federal and municipal leaders.

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