Climate change is causing the Pentagon to fundamentally alter how the Department of Defense (DoD) will evaluate future conflict areas, according to The Hill. At an event last Thursday, Daniel Chiu, the Deputy Assistant Secretary of DoD strategy, said that climate change has prompted Pentagon strategists to think “about global food and water scarcity, mass migration, and the potential for those issues to ignite clashes around the world.”
“Climate change will generate greater need for humanitarian and disaster-relief aid,” Chiu said. “That means the DoD needs to engaged in more collaborative efforts with other nations and nongovernmental organizations.”
The Pentagon has been saying that the time is now to factor climate change into strategic military planning for years, however. In its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), the Pentagon concluded, similarly to Chiu’s recent statement, that climate change will be an “‘accelerant of instability and conflict,’ ultimately placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”
The Defense Department acknowledged in the QDR that climate change will have “significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation and weakening of fragile governments.”
The Guardian reported, as early as 2004, that the Pentagon warned former President George W. Bush, whose oil-friendly administration went to great lengths to exploit the environment, that climate change could result in “global catastrophe.” The report, commissioned by Pentagon defense advisor Andrew Marshall, indicated that “climate change should be elevated beyond a scientific debate, to a US national security concern.”
According to Chiu, maintaining funding for the global security challenges that we may face as a result of climate change will be difficult, referencing the $500 billion in spending cuts the DoD will be faced with over the next 10 years. The Council on Foreign Relations noted last year that the “perceived lack of leadership by central players in the climate change debate – especially the United States – has elicited concern about the long-term prospects of the global climate change regime.”
Last year global energy emissions reached a record high, though Reuters reported that the US’s shift from coal in power plants contributed to a 0.7 percent decrease in global greenhouse gas emissions in 2011. The International Energy Agency reported on Monday that “The world is not on track to meet the target agreed to by governments to limit the long-term rise in the average global temperature to 2 °C.”
The need for recognizing the national and global security issues resulting from climate change is dire, and it is a good sign that the Pentagon understands the need to focus its attention on this problem. But their progress, as with most of the environmental movement related to climate change, seems to be slow-coming.
Alisha is a writer and researcher for Ring of Fire.