Climate and National Security: Exploring the Connection
by Jeff Kueter
September 17, 2012
In Climate and National Security: Exploring the Connection, Marshall Institute President Jeff Kueter considers the evidence for the assertion that changing environmental conditions brought on by human emissions of greenhouse gases will negatively impact U.S. national security.
"In my view, an objective review of the evidence shows little support for this argument," Kueter concludes. "Studies of the sources of conflict show plainly that environmental factors rarely incite conflict between states or within states. In fact, experience shows the more probable outcome is cooperation."
In summary, efforts to link climate change to the deterioration of U.S. national security rely on improbable scenarios, imprecise and speculative methods, and scant empirical support. Accepting the connection can lead to the dangerous expansion of U.S. security concerns, inappropriately applied resources, and diversion of attention from more effective responses to known environmental challenges. The danger of this approach is that it offers a sense of urgency which may not be warranted, given the gaps in the current state of knowledge about climate, the known flaws in the methods used to construct the scenarios on which these security scenarios are based, and confusion over the underlying causes of those security concerns.