We are at a pivotal moment in history, climate change is indeed a major threat to the stability and security of countries worldwide. It is a clear and present danger for our planet, that is being daily debated by scientists, argued by politicians, and we are also aware of it, but we do not know how tackle it. Regardless of this, climate change is real, it’s happening and it’s taking place dangerously. The Earth is warming up, and it is not caused by orbital variation, but it is due to the emissions produced by human activities of burning fossil fuel. This indirectly leaves the younger generation vulnerable, as global warming threatens the stability across the world, and they will be the ones that will have to battle one of the biggest problems to face our world. This essay will then firstly discuss the threats brought about by climate change to the different dimensions of national security: energy and natural resource, infrastructure, ecological, political, economic, and physical dimension. The essay will further shed light on the effects of climate change on the aforementioned points. Lastly, the essay will bring up ways we can be a part of the solution to this problem.
Definition of Terms
Climate change is a long-term change in the Earth’s overall temperature caused by human activities which has massive and permanent consequences. “The average weather, or more rigorously, as the statistical description in terms of the mean and variability of relevant quantities over a period of time ranging from months to thousands or millions of years” (Mach, Planton, & Stechos, 2014, p.119).
National security is the security of a state, inclusive of the citizens and the economy, which is considered to be the duty of the government to enforce using the economic, military and political dimensions.
The Energy and Natural Resource Dimension of National Security
Climate change is a worldwide and a man-made threat that births a series of risks to the million livelihoods and ecosystems which will eventually spiral out of control into one huge war over the little resources left. Humans are wholly to blame for this arising challenge as we are diminishing the Earth’s natural resources faster than they can be replaced; we are cutting too many trees and emitting greenhouse gases into the atmosphere. These activities contribute to the rise in the levels of the greenhouse gases, “…and if we continue in this way, global temperatures will rise by 4-6 degrees Celsius by the end of the century” (Reif & Rudolf, 2014, p.4). The effects of climate change are unevenly distributed throughout the different regions worldwide; the least developed countries are the most affected.
This is mainly because humans dominate the planet and we are all interconnected as we all face this common challenge, a typical example being that of the current Amazon wildfires. The Amazon has been termed the green lungs of the world because it helps regulate global warming by absorbing carbon emissions. Therefore, the issue of the wildfires engulfing one of the world’s largest suppliers of oxygen is an ecological catastrophe for all of us not just the Brazilian residents. Climate change therefore poses a threat which will eventually lead to an increase in temperatures as the incoming sun rays are trapped on Earth which could have otherwise been radiated back into space.
As aforementioned, the effects of climate change vary from one region to another. Hence, the increase in temperatures will lead to different results across the globe. This triggers many outcomes to the climate, and the extreme weather is one of the primary indicators of the effects of climate change.
The trapped greenhouse gases lead to an increase in the average Earth’s temperatures and this leads to melting glaciers and wildfires. The former causes a rise in sea levels which gets warmed up by the warmer temperatures and eventually leads to hurricanes. Mexico experienced hurricane Earl in August 2016, Veracruz and Puebla states were mostly affected, “…resulting in widespread flooding and mudslides. Earl was responsible for 81 direct deaths in Mexico” (Stewart, 2017, p.1).
Poor countries are living examples of climate change, drought in many African countries is a new norm. Thought it’s not unpopular, it has now gotten worse mainly due to the pollutants of the environment being the industrialized countries. East African countries such as Somalia are struggling through drought as climate change has made it more severe and unforgiving. The locals are trying to make the best out of the cruel hand they have been dealt as many conflicts arise over grazing land and water for their livestock of which many farmers are losing their lives as they have been condemned to a battle death by drought. Many Somalis are then forced to leave their nomadic pastoralism lifestyle and move into towns and cities which are by now overcrowded, and some even leave to neighboring countries for security: “For the majority of Dadaab refugees, a return to Somalia in the short-term is not a viable solution” (Kamau & Fox, 2013, p.3).
The Infrastructure Dimension of National Security
There are many built infrastructure sectors examples, including government facilities, communication, financial systems and energy services, which are fundamental to the security of nations. There is an interconnection between these sectors and climate as they are directly or indirectly contributing to the emissions that causes climate change, and in the process, leaving us vulnerable and costing us huge amounts of money. An example of the economic impact of climate change on infrastructure is: “…the Colonial, Plantation and Capline pipelines, were knocked out by a power outage caused by Hurricane Katrina. The pipelines were shut down for two full days and operated at reduced power for about two weeks” (Wilbanks & Fernandez, 2014, p.5).
Our infrastructure choices do play a great role on climate change, and though many people are still struggling with the disbelief of climate change, they can see the impact of it. Climate change leads to an increase in the disruption of infrastructure services in many locations. “As a result of the energy failure, fuel shortages and prices spikes resulted, affecting the transportation network” (Wilbanks & Fernandez, 2014, p.5). Many are taking the impacts for granted, but our infrastructure is inclined to all kinds of problems, and we only become aware of it when there is some kind of disaster, as already mentioned above.
Effects of Climate Change on the United States Military Infrastructure
Climate change has pushed us to a pivotal moment in history by causing problems that exceed the government’s ability to cope. It has extremely threatened national security, such that the military can no longer use live ammunition in areas affected by drought in fear of causing wildfires, because “…droughts dry out vegetation, increasing wildfire potential/severity” (Pentagon, 2019, p.6). This then limits the military from effectively carrying out their work as the effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts on Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations (Pentagon, 2019, p.2).
The Political Dimension of National Security
Climate change has turned into a political battleground. Many political leaders and activists across the world are, but younger generations are also now outvoting their elders. According to a Pew Research Center analysis, voters under the age of 53 cast 62.5 million votes in the 2018 midterm elections. Those 53 and older, by contrast, were responsible for 60.1 million votes. You can be skeptical of climate change all you want, but young people aren’t, and there’s no way conservatives are going to win elections if we don’t deal with climate change. “… the French president is threatening to kill it off over what he sees as betrayal by Brazil's maverick President Jair Bolsonaro, who is accused of allowing big business interests like ranchers and loggers to torch the forest” (Burchard & Montaz, 2019).
The Economic Dimension of National Security
Investors today do not have access to basic information about the potential impact that climate change has on many companies across the globe. It is a looming disaster for the economy, and people in the cooperate world should realize that before they suffer massive economic losses. Not only is climate change likely to cause economic losses, but it will also lead to social disruptions.
Many investors turn a blind to issues of climate change once they start making profits, despite the fact that the impact of climate change has the potential to affect companies’ valuable assets directly. From destroying property worth of billions of dollars to slowing down the production process, either ways climate change causes economic losses to many investors. Most countries, such as Brazil, which has been accused of cutting down the green lungs of the world, have been threatened by other countries using trade deals to force it to get its act together pertaining the Amazon fires: “The EU and Finland are urgently exploring the possibility of banning imports of Brazilian beef from its markets due to the devastation caused by the fires in the Amazon forest” (Reuters, 2019).
Ways to Help Curb Climate Change
In order to tackle this issue, industrialized countries should respect the planetary boundaries by using natural resources in an ecologically sustainable way and reducing their greenhouse gas emissions. “Many scholars, policymakers, and activists have argued that climate change will lead to resource competition, mass migration, and, ultimately, an increase in armed conflict around the world” (Idean, 2008, p.315). This should be a wakeup call to the older generation and world leaders whom are condemning the younger ones to a future they cannot live in. They need to get educated on climate change and act on it because caring about the issue and not doing anything about it is not enough.
In a nutshell, climate change is a threat multiplier, it will spiral things out of control, if not addressed, and this will ultimately lead to a fully blown war between countries over the little resources that will be left in the world. The increase in temperatures leads to different outcomes in different regions. The impact may either be economical, political or on the infrastructure, there is then mass migration as people will move to areas that are least affected by climate change, this then leads to a depletion of natural resources at an increasing rate, and people are going to fight over the little remaining resources due to scarcity.
- Burchard, H. V., & Montaz, R. (2019). Amazon Fires Spark Macron Threat to Kill South America Trade Deal. Biarritz: Politico.
- Idean, S. (2008). From Climate Change to Conflict. Los Angeles: Sage Publications.
- Kamau, C., & Fox, J. (2013). A Study on Livelihood Activities and Opportunities for Daddab Refugees. The Daddab Dilemma, 1-71.
- Mach, K. J., Planton, S., & Stechos, C. V. (2014). Annexes. Climate Change 2014: Synthesis Report. Contribution of Working Groups I, II and III to the, 117-130.
- Pentagon, R. (2019). Report on Effects of Changing Climate to the Department of Defense. Virginia: Department of Defense.
- Reif, A., & Rudolf, D. (2014). Climate Change from Above: An Introduction to Climate Change from an Outer-Space Perspective. Germany: Germanwatch.
- Stewart, R. S. (2017). Hurricane Earl. Miami: National Hurricane Center.
- Wilbanks, T. J., & Fernandez, S. J. (2014). Climate Change and Infrastructure, Urban Systems, and Vulnerabilities. Washington: Island Press.
- Yeung, J., & Alvarado, A. (2019). Brazil's Amazon Rainforest Is Burning at a Record Rate, Research Center Says. New York: Cable News Network.