A new report from the National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel (NSMIP) of US Institute the Center for Climate and Security, warns of high-to-catastrophic security threats arising as a consequence of plausible climate change trajectories that have impact on water resources.
The panel, made up of national security, military and intelligence experts, analyzed the globe through the lens of US Geographic Combatant Commands, warns that in order to avoid the threats it will be necessary to quickly reduce and phase out global greenhouse gas emissions.
A near-term scenario of climate change, in which the world warms 1-2°C over pre-industrial levels by mid-century, would pose ‘High’ to ‘Very High’ security threats. A medium-to-long term scenario in which the world warms as high as 2-4+°C would pose a ‘Very High’ to ‘Catastrophic’ threat to global and national security.
“Even at scenarios of low warming, each region of the world will face severe risks to national and global security in the next three decades. Higher levels of warming will pose catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks over the course of the 21st century.”
The "Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change: How Likely Warming Scenarios Indicate a Catastrophic Security Future” report, released 24 February, identifies major threats, including heightened social and political instability, and risks to US military missions and infrastructure, as well as security institutions, under both warming scenarios and across all regions of the world.
The climate security risks posed to each region of the world have been assessed in the report through the lens of the US Geographic Combatant Commands. Topline risks for each area of responsibility are summarized below.
In Africa, particularly under the longer-term warming scenario, the “region would experience new and renewed interstate conflict over water resources, and severe humanitarian crises resulting from migrating populations, weather disasters, and economic shocks.”
In the Middle East, even under the near-term warming scenario, the “region will likely experience dangerous levels of temperature rise, drought, and dwindling water supplies that intensify already tense resource, political, and territorial competition.” In the longer term, competition over water resources and large-scale population displacement could lead to “enduring conflicts and state failure”.
In Europe, the report assesses the result of potential prolonged drought and rising seas, significant internal displacement, and an influx of migrants from neighbouring areas under both warming scenarios.
In India, the near-term warming scenario, will produce water scarcity in some areas and precipitation inundation in others, posing risks to security infrastructure, social stability, and tensions between regional powers. The longer- term scenario suggests sea level rise that will threaten coastal megacities, infrastructure, and populations, and the resulting displacement and securitization of state borders.
In all regions, challenges to water resources are anticipated to lead to displacements, leading to rising internal tension and in some cases resulting in state failure and major regional disruption.