US military leaders identify climate change as immediate security threat


Top military leaders in the US agree with a recent Department of Defense finding that identifies climate change as an “immediate risk to national security.” On Monday, the department released a roadmap laying out how the American military will adapt to rising sea levels, more violent storms and widespread droughts brought on by increased temperatures resulting from climate change. Less than a day after the report’s release a number of high-ranking military personnel concurred with the roadmap. The roadmap found these climate impacts will pose an immediate threat to national security including increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages. This report has been several years in the making and was released at a time when concerns about security, particularly terrorism and instability in the Middle East, are once again becoming a priority for Americans.


MT @DeptofDefense: We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be proactive in addressing them

Key Points

  • The impacts of climate change are already occurring and “immediate” action is needed. Global warming is already fueling hurricanes and causing sea level rise, hotter summers, and prolonged droughts. The Defense Department has begun to consider impacts of climate change on day-to-day activities like training exercises and purchasing decisions and is also planning for even more serious long-term effects. The longer climate change is allowed to continue, the more severe its impacts will be on militaries and communities around the world.
  • Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’ that will strain American military resources and destabilize and increasingly unstable world. The Department of Defense’s roadmap recognizes that climate change contributes to stresses that can enable terrorist activity. Climate impacts threaten food and water supplies which can lead to instability that fosters terrorism, drain resources, and cost lives.
  • Top military brass says climate change should be a top security issue. Admirals, generals and other senior members of the US military are on record saying that climate change is an issue that can’t be “kicked down the road,” needs to be “dealt with immediately,” and requires “policy-makers to follow the military’s lead.”


The 2014 Department of Defense Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (CCAR) outlines the Department of Defense’s steps for preparing for and addressing climate change related risks since the 2012 DoD Adaptation Roadmap. The CCAR reflects an evolution in understanding of climate change threats, particularly in terms of recognizing the “immediacy” of the threat, as opposed to just long-term projections. The first sentence of the CCAR makes this extremely clear: “Climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.” A recognition of the immediacy of climate change risks is also reflected in the CCAR’s recommendations—particularly those involving risks to DoD operations. This includes a call for integrating climate change into Department-wide guidance to the Combatant Commanders, which shows that the military is looking at the issue through a much broader lens than just threats to military infrastructure. The CCAR also places much greater attention than previous documents on climate change’s risks to stability in other nations. According to this document, climate change is a threat beyond installations and supply lines. It is also a broader strategic security risk that may impact fundamental U.S. interests in the world, including the maintenance of stability in strategically-significant parts of the world such as the Middle East and North Africa, and the Asia-Pacific region. The CCAR recognizes that climate change may contribute to stresses that can enable terrorist activity. In light of recent developments in Syria and Iraq, where terrorist entities like ISIS have seized scarce water resources as a means of enhancing their power and influence, it’s a timely document that presents critical questions about how the U.S. can take preventive measures to reduce the likelihood of instability and conflict.



Reports, Studies & Useful Links

Top Images

Key Quotes

  • “In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a ‘threat multiplier’ because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today—from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.” – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
  • “Climate change does not directly cause conflict, but it can add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. Food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, more severe natural disasters—all place additional burdens on economies, societies and institutions around the world.” – Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel

Related Tree Alerts

More Tweets