CEC in 2009: Climate Change and the Military

CEC members expanded the climate change conversation to include the military. Several members participated in a project of the Institute for Environmental Security, contributing to a statement by military advisors to send a strong signal in Copenhagen.

From the project Climate Change and the Military

Expanding on the work initiated in Barcelona, where CEC co-organized the Roundtable on Environment and Security at World Conservation Congress, several CEC members helped to expand the climate change conversation to include the military. CEC members active in this work include Nancy Colleton, Frits Hesselink, Wouter Veening and Keith Wheeler.

In 2009, the Commission joined the project ‘Climate Change and the Military’, coordinated by the Institute for Environmental Security (IES). CEC members:

  • participated in meetings and seminars
  • reviewed concept notes and contributed to the military experts’ statement for Copenhagen
  • disseminated this statement as a ‘strong signal’ from the military for Copenhagen.

Meetings and seminars

Event participation in 2009 ranged from attendance at a U.S. Congressional hearing on climate change and security to a series of seminars. The Chair and CEC members participated in a series of seminars leading up to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. Seminars were held at the Woodrow Wilson Institute in Washington, D.C., and at the IES in Brussels, including ‘Atlantic powers’ contributions to Copenhagen success’ in March as well as ‘Role of the military’ and ‘Global security community’s contributions to Copenhagen success’, both in October.

CEC members welcomed the opportunity to discuss the topic in meetings with Achim Steiner, Executive Director of UNEP, as well as Sherri Goodman and David Caterious of CNA. An informal lunch provided an opportunity to meet with NATO representatives.

UN Climate Change Conference, Copenhagen

At the Copenhagen climate talks in December, military experts raised the issues at a meeting on ’Climate Change & International Security’. Taking part were the Secretary General of NATO; the chair of the African Union Commission; Sweden’s Minister for Foreign Affairs, representing the EU; and Major General (ret) Muniruzzaman, a leading member of the IES Military Advisory Council and an expert on the implications of Himalayan glacial melt. 

An official side event was hosted by the foundations engaged in promoting the project ‘Climate Change and the Military’, They include Chatham House, Brookings, E3G and the IES. The side event was entitled ‘Delivering Climate Security: What the security community needs from a global climate regime’

Why is CEC building partnerships with the military?

Climate change has the potential to destabilize national security. Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world. Even in stable regions, tensions will rise. Impacts on water, food, health and weather could lead to mass immigration, lack of control over borders and potential armed conflict.

Security issues affect every region: 

  • The 2003 European heat wave killed more than 35,000 people
  • The 2004 Indian Ocean tsunami exemplifies the need for cooperation among nations in planning and response
  • Two-thirds of the Arab world depends on water sources external to their borders
  • Almost 40 percent of Asia’s 4 billion people live within 45 miles of the coast with the possibility of inundation with sea level rise or damage to infrastructure.

Impacts on military systems include increased need to respond, rising sea levels threatening bases, increased scope of operations, and an urgent need for fuel economy.

Climate change, population change, energy dependence, and damage to ecosystems are a related set of global challenges that require global partner-ships. Military experts are exploring how their countries and communities can adapt, build resilience and respond when disaster strikes.

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