Climate Change and National Security

September 22, 2017 • Volume 27, Issue 33
Will extreme weather lead to more global conflict?
By William Wanlund


A woman wades through floodwaters to a shelter in Dhaka, Bangladesh (Cover: Getty Images/Barcroft Media/Rehman Asad)
A woman wades through floodwaters to a shelter in Dhaka, Bangladesh, on Aug. 16. The U.S. Department of Defense considers climate change a factor that can aggravate other conditions, such as poverty and political or social instability, and create security or geopolitical risks for the United States or its allies. As ice melts and oceans rise, the potential for violent conflict increases. (Cover: Getty Images/Barcroft Media/Rehman Asad)

U.S. military officials increasingly view climate change as a “threat multiplier,” a factor that can aggravate poverty, political instability and social tensions. That, in turn, could foster terrorism and other forms of global violence while impairing America's military effectiveness. Rising seas, due mainly to Arctic ice melting, already threaten Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, the world's largest naval base; dozens of other coastal installations also are at risk. Meanwhile, drought in some regions and record rainfall in others have forced millions of people to migrate across borders, adding to tensions in northern Africa, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Defense Secretary James Mattis said climate change is affecting the stability of areas where U.S. troops are operating. President Trump, who has labeled climate change a “hoax,” now says he has an “open mind” on the issue. Some politicians and economists argue that the real danger to U.S. security lies in the erosion of jobs, trade and industrial productivity caused by the costs of unnecessary federal environmental regulations.

ISSUE TRACKER for Related Reports
Disasters and Preparedness
Sep. 04, 2020  Pandemic Preparedness
Jan. 12, 2018  Disaster Readiness
Sep. 22, 2017  Climate Change and National Security
Aug. 02, 2013  Preparing for Disaster
Jun. 25, 2010  Offshore Drilling
Feb. 03, 2006  Rebuilding New Orleans
Nov. 18, 2005  Disaster Preparedness Updated
Dec. 16, 1994  Earthquake Research
Oct. 15, 1993  Disaster Response
Jul. 15, 1988  Slow Progress in Earthquake Prediction
Apr. 12, 1985  Tornadoes
Jul. 16, 1976  Earthquake Forecasting
Mar. 19, 1969  Earthquakes: Causes and Consequences
Aug. 22, 1962  Government Stockpiling
Jan. 18, 1956  Disaster Insurance
Mar. 06, 1952  Mobilization for a Prolonged Emergency
Jul. 01, 1950  Stand-By Laws for War
Jan. 09, 1928  Economic Effects of the Mississippi Flood
May 19, 1927  Mississippi River Flood Relief and Control
Atmospheric Sciences
Climate Change
Emergency Preparedness
Humanitarian Assistance
Military Bases
Natural Disasters
Powers and History of the Presidency
Renewable Energy Resources and Alternative Fuels