national security

Vanguard Adaptation Leader: U.S. Department of Defense

The community of adaptation leaders should, indeed must, bolster its essential link with the national security apparatus.  Three reports suggest why:

1.     The Department of Defense has created a Roadmap (2014) with an objective to collaborate with stakeholders, including the adaptation community. Specifically, it says it seeks to promote deliberate collaboration with stakeholders across the Department and with other Federal, State, local, tribal and international agencies and oorganizations in addressing climate change considerations.

The report maintains that climate change “is a long-term trend, but with wise planning and risk mitigation now, we can reduce adverse impacts downrange.”  The authors’ use of the term “downrange” is important. While it’s not necessarily the future, it’s a target that may be farther away and, therefore, requires careful preparation to nail. 

The report concludes: “By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate, minimize its impacts on our missions, and continue to protect our national security.”

2.     In 2015, the DOD released another report on the national implications of climate change that notes the need to adapt military facilities – many located along the coasts and/or in arid environments – and to develop adaptation strategies to diffuse risks in developing countries.

3.     The White House in September released a Statement and a National Security document about integrating climate change into national security. But, in a missed opportunity, the documents do not mention adaptation.

As panel submission deadlines loom for the biannual National Adaptation Forum, I hope its steering committee has invited the DOD to speak at the May 2017 forum.  The Defense Department is at the frontline in its adaptation leadership. We should try to leapfrog one another, helping to inform adaptation strategies for communities of stakeholders and to enhance research to action.

 

 

 

Buffering Against Climate Risk: Lessons for the Refugee Crisis

This blog was initially published by our partner, the RANE network:  https://www.ranenetwork.com/rane-blog/buffering-against-climate-risk-lessons-for-the-refugee-crisis/ As the world watches countless economic migrants and war refugees journey perilously from their volatile homelands to relatively stable countries that respond with tactics as varied as their histories, two overarching questions arise: How did we arrive at this stage of human suffering? And what can we do to avoid it from occurring again?

I think it is worth examining why some countries withstand stress while others don’t. In my work with the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index, I focus on how countries adapt to the stresses and shocks of climate change. I think there are valuable lessons from this examination of climate risks to help explain why some countries are buffered from creating refuges when times get tough.

In ND-GAIN’s country index, we identify those countries that have significantly improved their economic, social or governance components (which we examine as a way to understand a country’s readiness to take on adaptation investment) and have decreased their climate vulnerability over the past two decades

There is a unique set of 10 countries who have decreased their vulnerability and increased their readiness more over the last 20 years.

While this set of countries seem more diverse than similar – different locations, government type, history and economic systems, these countries share common features, and one in particular stands out from the 46 indicators ND-GAIN examines: political stability. It turns out that the stability afforded by good governance in the form of political stability may buffering them from stress turning to crisis in the case of both climate risk and emigration.

It is interesting to examine the diversity in these countries’ approach to gaining political stability. The countries can be categorized into three groups: those who improved, those who worsened but then rebuilt and those who remained mostly unchanged.

In the first group are Rwanda, Angola, Georgia and Turkey. Each has improved its political stability since 1995. Rwanda and Angola, for instance, have made significant peacekeeping strides from their violent past of civil wars and genocides. Human rights have improved there, too.

The group of countries whose political stability worsened but then rebounded includes Saudi Arabia, Belarus and Oman. Saudi Arabia’s leader suffered a stroke, which led to an odd period of leadership. The war in Iraq and al-Qaeda’s presence in the region also affected it and led to decreased political stability. Since, however, the Saudi government has retained some of its lost political stability, which helps it prepare for climate change.

Oman also suffered from events in Iraq but made great progress since in its elections and freedoms. Belarus, which gained independence in 1991 from the Soviet Union but then endured abusive authoritarian rule, regained political stability after its people protested.

Those countries that remained mostly politically stable in the past 20 years include Uruguay, Mauritius and the United Arab Emirates. While they experienced quite a bit of change during this period, they dealt with it within their current political system, and this has led to their success in climate change preparedness.

As Rockefeller Foundation President Judith Rodin notes, “… it’s what doesn’t happen that proves success. When disruptions do not become disasters, we’ve won. When a community is resilient and stays strong in the face of a crisis, (we) mark a victory.”

These 10 countries, then, may well hold lessons to today’s heart-breaking emigration from Syria and elsewhere. In the 10, we see political stability as a buffer to the shocks and stresses of climate change — and perhaps as well to the tragedy of exodus from them.

 

Countries whose vulnerability to climate change, other global challenges decreased while readiness to improve resilience improved. (Top 10 out of 182)

Country ND-GAIN Country Index Score Improvement 1995-2013
United Arab Emirates 16.06
Saudi Arabia 13.98
Turkey 12.56
Rwanda 12.24
Oman 12.04
Georgia 11.23
Mauritius 11.11
Angola 10.85
Uruguay 10.65
Belarus 10.56

 

Joyce Coffee is managing director of the Notre Dame Global Adaptation Index (ND-GAIN). 

Brazil drought – the Readiness Prophylactic

   

The bottom of the ND-GAIN Index when ranked by the water sector

Last month, Sao Paolo’s epic drought made headlines around the world, not simply because that’s strange for a place known colloquially as Terra da Garoa(Land of Drizzle). Ranked by the water sector, Brazil sits at a comfortable 20 in the ND-GAIN index. But officials in that country’s most populous city have worried about water supplies for several years and even wonder if it might cause a riot.

 

In other parts of the world, of course, drought has been oncoming for decades. These are the kind of places that already have progressed beyond riot stage into all-out-war. Simply consider the bottom of the ND-GAIN Index when sorted for water. That Syria lies at the bottom shouldn’t be surprising.

 

Other countries – Sudan and Pakistan, for instance – aren’t too surprising either because water shortages have sparked popular discontent. In their cases, droughts in agricultural lands have spurred rural migrations to their cities. Some suggest this contributes to fomenting volatile civil discontent.

I am particularly interested in why those countries that share a low berth on the ND-GAIN rankings seem relatively conflict-free. For instance, comparing the trajectory of Jordan, Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan to that of Syria, Sudan and Pakistan, the suggestion arises that improving governance, social structure and economic opportunity in countries could prove to be a prophylactic to water-scarcity driven civil conflict.

 

That possibility makes me hopeful for countries such as Brazil, whose readiness also has increased over time.   On the graph below, Brazil’s curve resembles a giraffe, just like that of Jordan. So while its readiness rank is 111 in the ND-GAIN Country Index vs. Jordan’s 82, Brazil may be able to increase its resilience to drought and, thus, quell any potential water-scarcity driven unrest.   It appears that it might start is in the social sector.

chart (20)chart (21)

Expert View: Five Issues that Promise to Heighten National Security Risks in a Changing Climate

At last month’s ND-GAIN annual meeting, Brigadier General (USMC RET) Stephen Cheney, the American Security Project’s CEO, laid it on the line.  For the military and for the world, climate change risk is real and grows every day.  And the military knows from experience that waiting for certainty on future predictions can prove disastrous. Reflecting on climate impacts with national security significance, a panel spelled out five repercussions of a changing climate.  Cheney himself laid out four risks:

  1. Sea level rise in Asia will displace millions of people.  In Bangladesh alone, more than one million of its 160 million people will need to relocate. Relocations cause tensions that historically have erupted into civil conflict in which the U.S. military has responded..

  2. Forest fires, such as the one in Russia that elevated wheat prices and perhaps sowed the seeds of the Arab Spring in the Middle East, will put more natural resources at risk, causing scarcity-driven conflicts. (In an earlier post, I noted that the U.S. Defense Department estimates that 6,000 square kilometers of African land for agriculture – roughly the size of the West Bank and Gaza[1]will disappear by 2060 so the bargain over food resources will worsen.)
  3. Extreme weather events, such as Super Typhoon Haiyan that ravaged the Philippines will require military response for humanitarian aid.
  4. Arctic ice melt will trigger a tussle over territory, leading to conflict between the nations that claim ownership.

The fifth effect of a changing climate with national security implications was offered by Marcus King, associate professor of George Washington University’s The Elliott School of International Affairs. His was a promising trend – that water scarcity has fostered more incidents of cooperation than conflict.  For instance, he mentioned the agreement by Jordan, Israel and the Palestine Authority to rejuvenate the Dead Sea.

He noted that the Pentagon refers to climate change as an instability accelerant, and cited projections from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change and others that by 2030, global demand for water will exceed the water supply by 40 percent.  Already, in the tinder box of the Middle East, water trends are alarming.  In Syria, 800,000 farmers were forced to move to cities because of a two-year drought and, in Yemeni, aquifers could be depleted by 2020.  For Egypt, which relies on neighboring countries for all of its fresh water, conflicts driven by water could erupt as Egypt’s neighbors consider building dams for their energy security.

As Roger-Mark De Souza, director of the Wilson Center of Population, Environment, Security and Social Change foretold, with 1.5 billion, or more than one-in-five, people worldwide living in conflict or post-conflict areas, climate vulnerability will worsen crises.


[1] Approximately 6,020 square kilometers, The World Bank

 

National Security: A driver for climate adaptation prioritization?

I got involved in the corporate sustainability space through civil conflict. In Vietnam, actually, while investigating innovations in water infrastructure service delivery sparked by a community fight over access to water in Haiphong. That escalated into a major conflict that left two water workers dead before the People’s Committee came to its senses and considered a new way to approach fair water access. That was two decades ago. Yet that question of water and conflict continues to erupt and spill over from small-town skirmishes to all-out wars.  Noted journalist Tom Friedman has written about it in an April 2012 column, The Other Arab Spring, and a May 7, 2013, column, Postcard from Yemen. And I’m hearing rumblings from my Notre Dame colleagues who suggest a rear-view mirror look at Darfur reveals that the conflict that forced people off their land was less about sectarian strife and more about lack of access to water. My colleague Peter Annin has written a book with the provocative title of “Water Wars.”

When I think about water conflict, though, I ask myself if we know more now than we did about the relative vulnerability to water risk. It turns out that we do know a lot more.  For instance, examining countries on a short fuse in water-stressed regions of the world through the ND-GAIN index, it’s apparent that the Sahel and the Horn of Africa both show significant water vulnerability. Indicating that are such barometers as the projected change in precipitation and percent of population with access to improved water supply. Their vulnerability could possibly be having an impact on other  susceptibilities, such as food and health and wellness.

It is plausible that climate change is causing internal and cross-boundary migration that is affecting security around the world. At the recent New York Climate Week, Brigadier General Steven Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project, noted that 70 percent of global militaries consider climate change a threat to security.  He identified regions such as S. Asia Bangladesh, India and Pakistan, Mali and the Middle East as “tinder boxes” for various  reasons that concern flooding and drought, which are triggering competition for resources.

 

The U.S. military is taking a close look at this. A 2011 Defense Department Report,  “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security,” firmly recommends to “institute water security as  a core element of DOD strategy” since “the availability of water underlies all other elements of human security.”

Percent changes in length of growing period changes to 2050.

 

So what  specifically do you analyze and consider to determine if a war or significant conflict is caused by climate change?   One approach involves looking at countries that are less vulnerable, or that have become less vulnerable over time, than their neighbors or peers and measure the degree of conflict in them.  In Africa, according to ND-GAIN, countries like Tanzania and Zambia have become less vulnerable over time.

The upshot? Investing in adaptation could be one way to mitigate civil conflict.

Post Script October 23. 2013.  Thanks to Josh Foster - a wiki of all things climate adaptation - for sharing the following with me from Science:

QUANTIFYING THE INFLUENCE OF CLIMATE ON HUMAN CONFLICT

A rapidly growing body of research examines whether human conflict can be affected by climatic changes. Drawing from archaeology, criminology, economics, geography, history, political science, and psychology, we assemble and analyze the 60 most rigorous quantitative studies and document, for the first time, a striking convergence of results. We find strong causal evidence linking climatic events to human conflict across a range of spatial and temporal scales and across all major regions of the world. The magnitude of climate’s influence is substantial: for each one standard deviation (1σ) change in climate toward warmer temperatures or more extreme rainfall, median estimates indicate that the frequency of interpersonal violence rises 4% and the frequency of intergroup conflict rises 14%. Because locations throughout the inhabited world are expected to warm 2σ to 4σ by 2050, amplified rates of human conflict could represent a large and critical impact of anthropogenic climate change.

Science 13 September 2013: Vol. 341 no. 6151 1235367