climate change politics

Climate change and national security

To the dismay of environmentalists, it was Lord Stern’s review of the economics of climate change that really shook the British government into action. From which, presumably, we can only deduce that as far as the government is concerned the climate can go hang, but let nothing interrupt the economy. Still, better late than never.

Cynicism aside, we need those broader perspectives on climate change to really engage people. The economic, social and ethical sides of climate change and slowly being understood, and to that list we can now add security.


“Failure to recognise the conflict and instability implications of climate change, and to invest in a range of preventative and adaptive actions will be very costly in terms of destabilising nations,” a group of 10 leading military figures said last week.

The Military Advisory Council met to discuss the security implications of climate change, concluding that “climate change creates a common security problem that requires global and comprehensive co-operation.” They went on to call for an ambitious and equitable deal in Copenhagen, and called on armies to reduce their own ‘carbon bootprints’ (the US army is the world’s single biggest user of oil).

This statement caught my eye, because if it takes the economics to engage some in the realities of climate change, security could do the same for others. Republicans and conservatives more broadly often have little time for climate change, but consider security to be a priority. Climate change could be a huge destabilising force, responsible for millions of refugees, and we may have already seen the first climate change war. It could both trigger new tensions and multiply existing ones, and natural disasters could put additional strain on security forces.

I don’t usually care very much what military strategists say, but perhaps security questions could finally put climate change on the radar for some of those who are unconvinced so far.


  1. > …the climate can go hang, but let nothing interrupt the economy.

    I’d say that is largely true. The climate / environment is only important as far as it is needed to maintain GDP.

    And I’m not convinced that the security argument will sway many Repugs – they *like* war. They like watching film of ‘smart’ bombs hitting their target and Stealth bombers taking off to stick it to those “camel jockeys”.

    I think we need to accept that a percentage – 20? – are unreachable. The same ones who still think GW did a heckuva job. We just move on without them. They’re no different to creationists or Flat Earthers.

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