Report Warns of Climate Change Induced Global Security Risks
UN Photo/Logan Abassi
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The report assesses the security implications of two future warming scenarios: near term, 1-2°C; and medium-long term, 2-4°C.

It concludes that even at low-warming scenarios, every region will face severe security risks over the next three decades, while higher-warming levels could lead to catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks during the 21st century.

National security, military and intelligence experts are warning of high to catastrophic threats to security at different warming scenarios, and urging a rapid reduction and phasing out of global emissions. The report titled, ‘A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change,’ constructs its global analysis “through the lens of the U.S. Geographic Combatant Commands.”  It provides regional and international threat assessments for climate change, as well as recommendations going forward.  

The report, which was published in February 2020, assesses the security implications of two future warming scenarios: near term, 1-2°C; and medium-long term, 2-4°C. It affirms that the world has already warmed almost 1-2°C compared to pre-industrial temperatures. At both warming scenarios and across all regions, the report identifies threats, including increased social and political instability, and risks to US military missions and infrastructure, and security institutions.

Higher-warming levels could lead to catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks. 

The report concludes that even at low-warming scenarios, every region will face severe security risks over the next three decades, while higher-warming levels could lead to catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks during the 21st century. Additionally, the report also finds, inter alia, that such threats could happen quickly, destabilizing the regions and relationships on which US and international security depend; and that climate change will present significant threats to US military missions, as well as to regional security institutions and infrastructure, which are critical for maintaining global security.

To avoid severe and catastrophic security futures, the report recommends: 

  • achieving net-zero global emissions as soon as possible in an ambitious, safe, equitable, and well-governed manner;
  • “climate-proofing” environments, infrastructure, institutions, and systems on which human security depends, rapidly building resilience to climate impacts, and investing in adaptation, disaster response, and peacebuilding; and
  • in the US, enhancing efforts to prioritize, communicate, and respond to climate security threats, and integrating them across all security planning.

The report also presents threats by region. For example, the African region is likely to see a rapid loss of rural livelihoods, disease, resource stress, and migration, and an increased threat from violent extremist groups in fragile areas. Europe will likely experience severe weather that threatens to: destabilize of key economic sectors; lead to rising regional inequality, migration and ethno-nationalist responses; and result in negative impacts on civil and military infrastructure. The Indo-Pacific region will experience water scarcity in some areas and precipitation inundation in others, threatening security infrastructure, social stability, and tensions between regional powers. 

The report was produced by the National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel of the Center for Climate and Security. [Publication: A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change] [Report Landing Page]

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