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Climate change is creating security threats around the world – and militaries are responding

Climate change is creating security threats around the world – and militaries are responding

Women and children collect water in buckets from taps.

The British military is currently “too slow and resistant to change”, According to Admiral Sir Tony Radakin, the UK’s chief of defence staff. The urgent always has priority over the essential. But in the context of one of the world’s biggest security issues – climate change – threats and adaptations are evolving at pace.

In summer 2021, the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change The threat level was raised posed by climate change to a “Code red for humanity”. Anthropogenic climate changes are both evident and rapidly escalating. They transform natural, economic, and socio-political environment. In addition to mitigating the threats, governments and militaries are also trying to capitalize on opportunities and gain advantage.

A Various climate scenarios have been forecast – but common to all is increased frequency and scale of extreme weather events, more droughts and floods, melting of ice caps and permafrost, rise in sea levels, and oceanic acidification and deoxygenation.

Both Human and national securityAlmost certain that agricultural regimes will be affected by increased pest and disease presence, spikes and shocks to food production or logistics. The consequences include the recalibration and dislocation of peoples, border disputes and endemic famine, warfare, and the recalibrations of diplomatic alliances.

The pace at which climate threats are increasing has accelerated. Certain parts of the world are becoming “climate conflict hotspots”. The effects of climate change are shaping, proliferating and amplifying the threat. They interact in complex and intricate ways with pre-existing vulnerabilities, such as socioeconomic inequality and fragile governance.

The UN reportsThe Sahel region in Africa will experience 1.5 times more temperature rises than the global average. This is a serious problem for many countries in the region such as Mali where there has been severe weather. jeopardises agricultural production. Mali has a population growth rate of almost 3% and is one of the fastest-growing countries in the world.

Women and children collect water in buckets from taps.
Vicious cycle: Violence in the Sahel and famine have become a self-perpetuating reality in recent years.
Jake Lyell/Alamy Stock Photography

Tensions among ethnic groups, such as the Fulani and DogonThese problems have been exacerbated by decades of cattle-herding, horticulture relocation, and migration into urban centres. Violent clashes about grassland, water supplies and local infrastructure are common.

Scorched earth is only fertile for recruitment purposes. Extremist and violent organisations. Terrorist groups such a Boko Haram and Islamic State West Africa (ISWA), Jamaat Nusratul Islam wal-Muslimin, Katiba Macina, and Jamaat Nusratul Islam wal-Muslimin pose a threat in Sahel. Many of these terrorist groups have the capability and intent to launch complex attacks against civilian and government targets.

Arctic militarisation

The Arctic’s melting sea-ice is increasing strategic competition, as more resources are available, especially mineral and fossil fuel deposits. New trade routes are emerging. Northern Sea RouteFor example, the projected value of (NSR) Shift trade flows and traffic from the Suez Canal rivalsBetween Asia and Europe. Russia has declared the NSR “a national transportation corridor” as a means to ensure Exclusive AccessIt is possible.

Others, such as China and the US, however, have indicated that they regard it as an “international domain”. In reference to the “Polar Silk Road”, China has started to refer to itself as a “Arctic state near”, something that, in absolute terms, is geographically false. There are many Arctic and non-Arctic nations. Ice-breakersTo capitalize on these new economic realities

The high north is now facing unprecedented militarization. Russia is investing heavily into its defence infrastructure and using nuclear submarines to exert its power. MiG-31 Foxhound aircraft flightsOver the north pole, into US and Scandinavian skies, and exercises of their Arctic Motorised Brigade. In concert, this posturing informs Russia’s various competitors that it is present and, if required, will use force to defend its strategic interests.

Military jet flying above clouds.
A USAF B1B Lancer is part of a NATO deployment of bombers to Norway in order to operate in the strategically significant Arctic region.
Abaca Press/Alamy Stock Photo

Similar participation was seen by NATO in the contest. US president Joe Biden, for example, has relaunched Arctic Warrior, a cold war training programme – and, in early 2021, B-1 Lancer strategic air bombers were sentNorway. This put Russian military targets in Arctic and other regions within reach. Russia sent a retort to show its opposition and to respond, it sent a missile cruiserFrom its Northern Fleet to the region.

Carbon bootprints

National security risks are also increased by climate change. There are also physical risks. There are many risks associated with coastal naval bases. sea level rises. There are Liability risks. Particularly countries in the global south will seek damages from other countries for economic, physical, and cultural losses.

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The greenhouse gas emissions of militaries on a global scale are alarming Contribute greatlyto the climate crisis. As Ben Wallace, the UK secretary-of-state for defense, stated at COP26 that the necessity to reduce military emissions must be part the road to sustainability. His comments were in line with the ambitions presented in the Ministry of Defence’s Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach.

Action has followed the words. The UK army has invested in prototypes Electric hybridWith significantly reduced emissions and better performance, armoured, reconnaissance, and logistic vehicles are now much more efficient. The electric trucks used to transport a field hospital can now provide power for up 12 hours, which is equivalent to nine diesel generators. New buildings on the military’s training estate are also net negative, supplied by renewable sources like anaerobic digestioners and solar farms.

Recently, the Royal Air Force achieved a World’s first flight100% synthetic fuel is used to power the vehicle. 50% sustainable aviation fuelAll of its aircraft, and plans for ordering Electric-powered planesTraining. The Royal Navy is now incorporating alternative-fuelled sustainable design into new ships.

Militariaes can enhance their role in sustainable defense by addressing the carbon footprint. Moreover, as agents of “climate diplomacy”, they can influence positive change in other nations and government departments. This is a crucial role in a world that is increasingly uncertain and warming.


This article was coauthored by Lieutenant General (Retired), Richard Nugee. Nugee is a Senior Research Associate at the Climate Change & (In)Security Project, a collaboration between Oxford University and Centre for Historical and Conflict Research.

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