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U.S. Intelligence Sounds Alarms on Security Impacts of Climate Change

August 1, 2022 Leave a comment DRI Admin

The effects of climate change will be increasingly felt by businesses and communities in the coming years. But a recent report from the National Intelligence Council outlines the many ways it could lead to global security tensions in the short and long term.

The first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change, based on data from 18 U.S. intelligence agencies, offers an analysis of the many impacts on national security through 2040, and the findings aren’t optimistic. In particular it identifies current and upcoming crisis points that need to be recognized and planned for:

  • Tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement goals.
  • The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests (the reduction in sea ice already is amplifying strategic competition in the Arctic over access to its natural resources).
  • With rising temperatures, there is a growing risk of conflict over water and migration, particularly after 2030.
  • This will increase chances that countries will unilaterally test and deploy large-scale solar geoengineering—creating a new area of disputes.
  • Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries – those least able to adapt. This could increase potential for instability and internal conflict, requiring outside intervention.
  • The United States and partners face costly challenges that will become more difficult to manage without concerted effort to reduce emissions and cap warming.

While the outlook appears dire, the report also identifies several events that could change the trajectory of future modeling – though not necessarily for the better:

  • Technology – A major breakthrough in and large-scale deployment of zero-carbon energy or CDR technologies, or a successful geoengineering deployment
  • Disaster resulting in cooperation – a global climate disaster that mobilizes massive collective action from all countries and populations, and
  • Overt military action – Especially by a non-Arctic state, that significantly escalates tension in the region and results in a sidelining of Arctic diplomacy.

Click here to read the complete report.

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