Climate change poses “strategically significant risk” to U.S. national security

Here is the statement by the national security and military leaders:

We the undersigned members of the U.S. national security community conclude that the effects of climate change present a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security and international security, and that the U.S. must advance a comprehensive policy for addressing this risk. Our conclusion is due in part, but not limited to, the following determinations:

• Climate change increases stress on water, food and energy security both in the U.S. and globally, resulting in unique and hard-to-predict security risks, based on a combination of rapidly changing physical, environmental, economic, social and politicalconditions;

• Stresses resulting from climate change can increase the likelihood of intra or international conflict, state failure, mass migration, and the creation of additional ungoverned spaces, across a range of strategically-significant regions, including but not limited to the Middle East and North Africa, Central Asia, the Indo-Asia-Pacific, and the Arcticregions;

• Climate change is causing significant change in our oceans. These changes will impact maritimeactivityandassociatedmaritimesecurityacrosstheglobe,includinginstrategically- significant waterways, such as the Arctic Ocean and the South ChinaSea;

• The impacts of climate change present significant and direct risks to the U.S. homeland, including to critical energy and military infrastructure, the populations of coastal and water- stressed regions, economic hubs on the coasts and inland, and essential agriculturallands;

• The impacts of climate change present significant and direct risks to U.S. military readiness, operations andstrategy;

• The impacts of climate change will increase the likelihood of more frequent and elaborate Humanitarian Assistance and Disaster Relief (HADR) missionrequirements;

• Risk managers across institutions of national and international security, as well as intelligence agencies, industries and banks, have consistently identified climate change as a “high impact, high likelihood” risk;

• The impacts of climate change will place significant strains on international financial stability through contributing to supply line disruptions for major global industries in the manufacturing,energy,agricultureandwatersectors,disruptingtheviabilityoftheinsurance industry, and generally increasing the political and financial risks of doing business in an increasingly unstable globalenvironment.

Our determinations above are based on the impacts of the most likely case. There is a small chance that the impacts will be less than expected. There is a greater chance that the impacts will be even worse. It is therefore of critical importance that the United States addresses climate change in a way that is commensurate with this risk profile. In this context, the United States will need to “manage the unavoidable and avoid the unmanageable.” This requires a robust agenda to both prevent and prepare for climate change risks, and avoid potentially unmanageable climate-driven scenarios. Failing to do so will magnify and amplify risks to existing and future U.S. national security objectives.

There are few easy answers, but one thing is clear: the current trajectory of climatic change presents a strategically-significant risk to U.S. national security, and inaction is not a viable option.

Click here to see the list of signatories.