A combination of global starvation, war, drought and disease could have devastating effects on world security according to a report from several United States agencies including the US Army, Defense Intelligence Agency, and NASA, under the rubric of the United States Army War College.
The study, “Implications of Climate Change for the U.S. Army” addresses national and international security challenges associated with or worsened by climate change, and organizational challenges for the US military.
Sea level rise, changes in water and food security, and more frequent extreme weather events are likely to result in the migration of large segments of the population, the authors say in a report that was not widely reported when initially made public earlier this year.
Human migration and refugee relocation due to chronic drought, flooding, episodes of extreme, unusual weather or other natural events are identified as creating an environment ripe for conflict and large-scale humanitarian crises.
“Rising seas will displace tens (if not hundreds) of millions of people, creating massive, enduring instability. This migration will be most pronounced in those regions where climate vulnerability is exacerbated by weak institutions and governance and underdeveloped civil society. Recent history has shown that mass human migrations can result in increased propensity for conflict and turmoil as new populations intermingle with and compete against established populations. More frequent extreme weather events will also increase demand for military humanitarian assistance”.
Salt water intrusion into coastal areas and changing weather patterns will also compromise or eliminate fresh water supplies in many parts of the world.
The study calls on the Pentagon to prepare for the possibility that domestic power, water, and food systems might collapse due to the impacts of climate change as we near mid-century, comparing US preparation for climate change inevitabilities unfavorably to that of China.
The study itself did not conduct specific research on the climate or climate change but assumed through the preponderance of evidence available that climate change is occurring, despite Trump administration skepticism around climate change.
The report depicts a global food system increasingly disrupted by “rapid freeze-thaw cycles in spring and fall, soil degradation, depletion of fossil water aquifers, intensified spread of agricultural pests and diseases, and damage to shipping infrastructure as a consequence of flooding.”
On the Syria Civil War
“The Syrian civil war has been an international disaster with humanitarian and security impacts in the Middle East, Africa and Europe that will continue long into the future. Pre-war Syria had a population of about 22 million…Almost five million Syrians have fled the country since the start of the civil war…A host of factors contributed to the outbreak of civil war with causality still a matter of debate. There is, however, no question that the conflict erupted coincident with a major drought in the region which forced rural people into Syrian cities as large numbers of Iraqi refugees arrived…The Syrian civil war has reignited civil war in Iraq, and brought the U.S. and Russian militaries into close contact under difficult circumstances. The Syrian population has declined by about ten percent since the start of the war, with millions of refugees fleeing the nation, increasing instability in Europe, and stoking violent extremism”.
“By comparison, Bangladesh has eight times Syria’s population, and a conflicted history as a former part of Pakistan. Bangladesh is a predominantly Muslim nation locked between India and Burma. The latter is already under international scrutiny for its poor treatment of the Rohingya minority, the largest percentage of which have fled to Bangladesh. India is a nuclear-armed state perpetually on the verge of conflict with its nuclear-armed western neighbor, Pakistan. Indeed, Bangladesh’s existence is the result of a war between those two nations. The permanent displacement of a large portion of the population of Bangladesh would be a regional catastro- phe with the potential to increase global instability. This is a potential result of climate change complications in just one country…Globally, over 600 million people live at sea level”.
Viablility of US military interventions
The study’s authors identify that foreign military interventions, particularly in water scarce regions of the Middle East and North Africa, might not be viable unless the US Army invents or acquires radical new technologies to distribute adequate levels of water to soldiers.
The study describes “No systemic understanding of the wide diversity of climate-change related intelligence”, but a “wide variety of stake- holders who are monitoring climate change-related effects…These include public health organizations such and the W.H.O. and the Centers for Disease Control, energy producers and regulators such as the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, weather observers such as NASA and the NOAA, humanitarian organizations like the World Food Program, national security entities like the U.S. military, and numerous private and public organizations like universities, NGOs, and so on”.
Climate change is at the center of a complex web of interactions, the study reports: “During this study, we were struck by how much many people knew about parts of the phenomena, but we were also surprised by the lack of a holistic view of the problem, and a sense of how some areas would relate to each other. Climate change is a common cause linking a disparate set of challenges, but we currently have no systemic view to assess and manage risk”.
China gets it?
“In contrast, in China, systems science and engineering is considered so important to the future of China that this is a course of study required for all cadres in the Chinese Communist Party’s Central Party School in Beijing”.
On Geo-engineering (Whoa, what?)
The study discusses the ability to manipulate the natural environment as an instrument of national power: “Commonly referred to as Geoengineering, it is defined by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change as “a broad set of methods and technologies that aim to deliberately alter the climate system to alleviate impacts of climate change.”… However, many of the geoengineering experiments currently underway to combat climate change possess the dual-use potential for weaponization of the natural environment”.
“The study recommends any plans using geoengineering in climate change mitigation would benefit from a guiding framework of rules and regulations. It further endorses the establishment of a centralizing U.S. federal weather modification governing body to provide proper stewardship of the environment during any experimental development or actual implementation…Anything less could lead to a broad range of potential environmental, technical, political, and ethical issues”.
“These very concerns culminated in the United Nations General Assembly holding the Convention on the Prohibition of Military or any Hostile Use of Environmental Modification Techniques (ENMOD) of 1976. The EN- MOD Convention was the tool used to capture the spirit of international disarmament law explicitly envisioned to keep the manipulation of the environment out of the armed conflict arsenal. An additional protocol added a further ban on the use of methods and means of war- fare that purposefully and excessively damage the environment. The overall language bans the hostile use of the natural environment to wage war and went into force as of October, 1978. The United States, along with 77 other nations, have ratified the treaty and agreed to live by its restrictions. A decision to weaponize weather in the future would carry with it an almost certain international condemnation for any nation willing to undertake the effort. If someone could prove who did it”.