“As a threat multiplier, climate change can interact with other threats such as nuclear proliferation and health security and can contribute to conditions that allow terrorism or international crime to thrive”, says former UN Ambassador Lance Clarke during a talk last Wednesday at Clarkson. Ambassador Clarke has 35 years of experience in international work, focusing on emergency relief in conflicts, forcible displacements, early warning of conflicts, and peace operations and peacebuilding.
Using the documentary The Age of Consequence as context, he outlines the rationale behind his argument. He suggests that environmental security is inextricably linked with overall national security due to the potential for poverty, starvation, displacement of people, etc. This has been evident in the ongoing conflict in Syria. Between the period of 2006 and 2009, Syria experienced one of the largest droughts in its history. Researchers have linked this drought to changes in climate due to rising greenhouse emissions. Because of the drought, many rural residents found themselves incapable of maintaining their agrarian lifestyle and, as a result, moved to more urban districts. This mass migration into urban areas saw a rise in both housing and food prices, reducing the quality of life in these districts. This allowed for the easy recruitment of civilians by terrorist organizations within the region who promised the population a better life. As Clarke suggested, while Climate Change was not the primary cause of the 2011 conflict in Syria, it aided in multiplying the effects of the conflict. Conflicts such as the Somali Civil War were also used as examples of clashes that were further aggravated by climate-related events. As a solution, Clarke suggests that there needs to be a return to US involvement in climate change action. He alluded to President Trump’s 2017 decision to remove the United States from the 2015 Paris Climate Change Agreement. This decision was praised by many members of his party, especially in states which relied heavily on fossil fuels as an economic booster. However, it has also been met with vehement disagreement across the political spectrum both at a national and international level. This decision was met with the creation of the bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus which served to “educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” While the United States cannot exit the agreement until 2020 – a few months before the next presidential elections – the Trump administration remains adamant on this decision. Furthermore, Clarke states that the Trump administration has sought to bar any conversation regarding climate action within the military. He says evidence of this was seen with the 2017 National Security Strategy Report where climate change was not mentioned anywhere in the document despite the previous 2015 report indicating that climate change was a significant threat to US national security. This action was met with disapproval by many former high-ranking military officials as well as current members of the Department of Defense. Current Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, stated in 2017, “I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the Department of Defense (DOD) continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.” This statement was applauded by many current US military leaders. Consequently, Ambassador Clarke urges the audience to make a wise decision in the upcoming 2018 midterm elections. He suggests that it is important to elect climate-conscious representatives, citing Republican incumbent Elise Stefanik within the New York 21st Congressional District as an individual who has made strident efforts in ensuring continued US involvement in climate action. As he states, the outcome of the midterms will have a significant effect on climate change policy in addition to other socio-economic policies and legislation. Source :https://cuintegrator.org/2018/09/climate-change-is-a-threat-to-national-security/