U.S. NATIONAL SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE
STEPHEN MICHAEL SELF
B.A., Pennsylvania State University, University Park, 1998
M.A., St. John's College, Annapolis, 2002
A thesis submitted to the
Faculty of the Graduate School of the
University of Colorado in partial fulfillment
of the requirements for the degree of
Master of Public Administration
School of Public Affairs
This thesis for the Master of Public Administration degree by
Stephen Michael Self
has been approved for the
School of Public Affairs
Tanya Heikkila, Chair
November 19, 2015
Self, Stephen Michael (MPA, Public Administration)
U.S. National Security & Climate Change
Thesis directed by Professor Tanya Heikkila.
With the publication of the 2015 U.S. National Security Strategy, global climate change is
increasingly being framed as a U.S. national security issue necessitating the
militarization and securitization of the climate-security nexus. While a growing body of
research literature begins with the assumption that global climate change is a U.S.
national security concern, some scholars are questioning the connection. This article
provides an overview of the climate-security nexus dialogue and introduces a
framework for understanding the key stakeholders and their motivations. Additionally,
key documents leading to an increase in the climate-security nexus as U.S. national
security policy are evaluated. Finally, cooperation and mitigation strategies are
considered as alternatives to potentially advance climate change policy, U.S. national
security and global cooperative mitigation and adaptation strategies.
The form and content of this abstract are approved. I recommend its publication.
Approved: Tanya Heikkila
Sincere thanks to my thesis committee: Dr. Heikkila, Dr. Weible and Professor Sutton. I
am especially thankful for the leadership and support from Dr. Heikkila.
In appreciation of the people who protect our national security and those who defend
the environment, those who serve freedom and those who fight for the beauty of our planet.
TABLE OF CONTENTS
I. INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND........................................1
THE CLIMATE CHANGE & NATIONAL SECURITY PUZZLE.........................2
BACKGROUND ON HOW THE PUZZLE EMERGED..................................3
WHY STUDY HOW THIS PUZZLE IS FRAMED?..................................5
II. LITERATURE REVIEW: NATIONAL SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE............7
ENVIRONMENTAL MYTHS ON SOCIAL STABILITY.............................8
PERCEIVING CONFLICT OR COOPERATION..................................9
THE ROLE OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS..................................9
INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE BLACK SWANS................................12
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS.......................13
DISCUSSION: RETHINKING SECURITY....................................17
III. PART 1 QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF KEY U.S. NAITONAL SECURITY
DOCUMENT ANALYSIS METHOD...........................................19
AN ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE SCENARIO & IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. NATIONAL
NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE 2007......... 22
NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR THE ARCTIC REGION 2013.....................23
NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY 2010 & NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY 2015.26
DISCUSSION: ANALYSIS & INTERPRETATION...............................28
PART 2 MEDIA CODING & ANALYSIS....................................29
MEDIA CODING METHOD.................................................29
MEDIA CODING FINDINGS...............................................31
MEDIA CODING DISCUSSION.............................................33
SUMMARY & CONCLUSIONS OF EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS.........................34
IV. DISCUSSION & CONCLUSION......................................36
MITIGATION & ADAPTATION A PATH FORWARD............................36
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & SOCIAL EQUITY...............................37
PEACE & COOPERATION.................................................40
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & PERSONAL CONENTMENT..........................42
ENVIRONMENTAL KUZNETS' CURVE & MIDDLECLASS STRENGTH.................45
A. Coding Rules....................................................60
LIST OF TABLES
1. Organization Type & Issues.................................................33
LIST OF FIGURES
1. Organizational Positions on the Climate-Security Nexus Identified in U.S. Media
Reports from Feb-Nov 2015.......................................................32
INTRODUCTION & BACKGROUND
The research question in this thesis is how key stakeholders are framing the
climate-security nexus is media reports (Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007; Scheffran, 2011;
Stern, Peters, Bakhshi, Bowen, Cameron, et al., 2006). Throughout the discussion in this
thesis, a climate-security nexus is defined as the interconnection between the impacts
of global climate change and the repercussions of those impacts on U.S. national
security. For some experts, a climate-security nexus is assumed (Abbott, 2008; Bachler
et a I, 1996; Busby, 2007, 2008; CNA, 2007, 2014; Gilman et al, 2007; Homer-Dixon,
1994, 1996, 1999; Rashid et al, 2011; Stern et al, 2006; Obama, 2010, 2015; United
States, 2013, 2014, 2015). For other experts, the climate-security nexus is questioned
(Bettini & Andersson, 2014; Cudworth & Hobden, 2011; Gartzke, 2012; Gleditsch, 1998;
Lomborg, 2001; Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007; Mayer, 2012; Scheffran, 2011; Theisen, 2008;
Trombetta, 2014; Wapner, 2013).1
The empirical science substantiating global climate change resulting from
anthropogenic causes is now indisputable (IPCC, 2007; IPCC 2014; Light, 2014). The goal
of this thesis is to examine the debate between those who recognize a climate-security
nexus and those who do not, potential policy issues developing from a climate-security
nexus, and the potential benefits of a climate-cooperation strategy for the U.S., as well
as the international community. While there exists a substantial body of scientific
1 For an in-depth literature review of each position, see Bettini & Andersson, 2014, Nordas & Gleditsch,
2007, Rashid et al, 2011; Trombetta, 2014.
evidence stating that global climate change will increasingly adversely affect the living
conditions of some regions throughout the world, remaining unresolved empirically is
the extent to which global climate change impacts will prompt violent conflict, climate-
forced migration and security risks or, alternatively, lead to cooperative agreement
(Morton, 2011; Nagel, 2015; Scheffran, 2011; Trombetta, 2014). In setting the context
for this debate, this thesis will draw upon the peer-reviewed academic literature that
examines the evidence on whether global climate change is likely to result in violent
conflict and U.S. national security risks, versus the potential for cooperative agreement
among affected nations and stakeholders.
THE CLIMATE CHANGE & NATIONAL SECURITY PUZZLE
This thesis accepts the arguments presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on
Climate Change (IPCC) 2007 and IPCC 2014 reports regarding a relationship between
anthropogenic global climate change and potential direct impacts onto human and
societal organizations. To be clear, the argument is not in contradiction to the
substantial empirical evidence supporting anthropogenic climate change, but it is
instead examining the current policy of militarization and securitization of global climate
change both as a solution to environmental degradations, and in service to U.S. national
security. Continuing with this reasoning, the Stern Review an account on the
economics of climate change for the UK government by economist Nicholas Stern -
states: "Climate-related shocks have sparked violent conflict in the past, and conflict is a
serious risk in areas such as West Africa, the Nile Basin and Central Asia" (Stern et al.,
2006, p. 796). However, the potential for regional or international environmentally
based conflict or regime disruption by itself does not necessitate a U.S. national security
top-priority. These types of environmental stresses or state failures might more
appropriately be considered humanitarian issues and dealt with through diplomatic
policies and solutions.
The key is in understanding how the scenario implications impact between
"several stress factors" and "multiple stresses" potentially leading to a climate-security
nexus. The evaluated scenarios often collapse these qualifiers of "several stress factors"
or "multiple stresses", missing a crucial opportunity to process and exploit the many
contributing factors to U.S. national security concerns (Schwartz & Randall, 2003). That
is to say, observing that global climate change is one of many factors potentially leading
to incidents that could become U.S. national security concerns is different than a direct
causal correlation between global climate change and U.S. national security risks.
BACKGROUND ON HOW THE PUZZLE EMERGED
The attention to a climate-security nexus began significantly around 2003 with
the publication of a scenario analysis by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall commissioned
by the Pentagon (Schwartz & Randall, 2003; explored in detail in the document review
section). Since then, some experts argue that evidence and data for a climate-security
nexus lacks the kind of theoretical argument and empirical evidence requisite to support
a direct relationship between global climate change and conflict as a causal result
(Mayer, 2012; Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007; Scheffran, 2011). Nagel goes further to
identify how global climate change is gendered, as well as how the national security
threat is contrary to empirical evidence: "The view of climate change as a security threat
is distinct from the growing body of research estimating and responding to the likely
impact of climate change on food production, water supply, coastal settlements, and
human health" (2015, p. 206). While modeling projections performed by the IPCC may
demonstrate potential indicators for concern due to global climate change, the climate-
security nexus is highly complex and future international and regional developments
and climate change related repercussions remain in the realm of speculation and
uncertainty (Barbier & Homer-Dixon, 1999; Floyd, 2008; Trombetta, 2014).
Subsequently to the Schwartz and Randall scenario analysis publication in 2003,
the United Nations (UN) Security Council, in April of 2007, initiated debate on the
impacts that global climate change will have on international peace and security (UNSC,
2007). By that time, UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon was connecting the climate-
security nexus and warning the world that global climate change was as much of a
danger as war (McClelland, 2011; Scheffran, 2011; UNSC, 2007). This continuation of
the climate-security nexus framing at the UN level has helped to create three
byproducts: 1) an elevation of the neglected environmental issues found in global
climate change beyond the attention previously given to the U.N. Millennial
Development Goals (MDGs); 2) further establishment of a climate-security nexus in the
dialogue of potential policy and political solutions; and 3) a potential bypass of the U.S.
in taking a lead toward development of multilateral negotiated agreements in providing
solutions to global climate change (Mayer, 2012; McClelland, 2011; Trombetta, 2014).
The increasing awareness of a potential and hypothetical climate-security nexus on the
part of the UN, especially regarding item 3 above, spurs the debate among U.S.
stakeholders. Currently, for example, DoD, national security and military personnel who
perceive the impacts of global climate change as a U.S. national security risk are
increasingly framing their support for a climate-security nexus in key national security
documents and media reports. This framing in key documents and media reports
creates a structure for potential policy solutions of militarization and securitization to be
put forward as solutions by considering and evaluating such potential risks exclusively
through the lenses of national security.
WHY STUDY HOW THIS PUZZLE IS FRAMED?
The academic literature is inconclusive on a direct casual connection between
environmental stresses and the types of conflict potentially resulting in U.S. national
security concerns (this inconclusiveness is explored in detail in the literature review
section). However, media and policy reports shape this discussion and the possible
policy decisions on the topic. If the discussion is framed around the risks associated
with U.S. national security concerns, then the policy outcomes are very likely to be
militarization and securitization as a means of preparing and managing the
repercussions of global climate change. The following discussion focuses on how the
U.S. military and intelligence communities in media reports and key U.S. documents
frame the climate-security nexus. First, a review of the climate-security nexus literature
evaluates the relationship between global climate change and subsequent
environmental stresses potentially leading to U.S. national security concerns. Then, an
assessment of the climate-cooperation nexus as a possible alternative to militarization
and securitization of global climate change is evaluated and compared to the current
framing. Next, key documents for U.S. national security policy are reviewed and a
coding of media content is used to elaborate on framing and context for the climate-
security nexus. Finally, adaptation and mitigation are evaluated as possible paths
forward by supporting international institutions, negotiated agreements and sustainable
development as a potential solution to the inevitable changes in climatic conditions
LITERATURE REVIEW: NATIONAL SECURITY & CLIMATE CHANGE
The Earth's climate and environmental conditions are transitioning as a result of
anthropogenically caused global climate change (IPCC, 2007; IPCC 2014). Glaciers are
melting, sea levels are rising, rainfall is increasing or decreasing depending upon the
region, and farmable land in traditionally stable areas is declining (IPCC, 2007; IPCC
2014). With these climatic transitions, areas once habitable are predicted to become
uninhabitable or destabilized as a result of shifting weather patterns (Morton, 2011).
Nonetheless, developing nations and societies with a stronger dependence on
environmental conditions have an increased vulnerability to the impacts of global
climate change, including increasingly severe storms and floods, as well as drought
(Scheffran, 2011). Political regimes currently stressed and already weakened in their
attempt to maintain the current status quo could potentially fail as a result of the
additional negative impacts resulting from global climate change (CNA, 2007, 2014;
United States, 2013). Climate forced migration by people in search of the necessities of
everyday life is a possible repercussion, as is regime collapse and failed states (CNA,
2014). Conflict is identified as one of several stress factors by Working Group 2 of the
2007 IPCC report:
Vulnerable regions face multiple stresses that affect their exposure and
sensitivity as well as their capacity to adapt. These stresses arise from,
for example, current climate hazards, poverty and unequal access to
resources, food insecurity, trends in economic globalization, conflict, and
incidence of diseases such as HIV/AIDS (IPCC, 2007, p.19).
ENVIRONMENTAL MYTHS2 ON SOCIAL STABILITY
Ultimately, the suggestion of a climate-security nexus, and the prospective
national security consequences from that connection, results from not only the
potential economic impacts globally, but also on the distribution of resources of human
and social capital, social cohesion, information and technology, and the resiliency and
stability of societal institutions (Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007, p. 629; Scheffran, 2011).
However, some scholars suggest that the media and literature covering the national
security consequences of climate change present "environmental myths", or over-
simplified frames (Bettini & Andersson, 2014). The rationale of labeling the nexus a
myth is because causal correlation between environmental stresses and subsequent
conflict is empirically inconclusive in the academic literature. Embedded throughout
these environmental myths is the assumption that, "after certain thresholds, the
impacts of climate change in a specific area will result in the collapse of the
socioecological systems, leading to displacement of the population" (Bettini &
Andersson, 2014, p. 172). The climate-security nexus is gaining popularity in U.S.
national security publications and corresponding policy but often relies on the use of
circular references (Bettini & Andersson, 2014; Busby, 2007; Clapper, 2014; CNA, 2007,
2014; Hagel, 2013, 2014; Obama, 2010, 2015; United States, 2013; see also section on
key U.S. national security documents). The environmental myth on a climate-security
nexus is absorbed as fact and becomes an indicator for national security concerns.
2 "Environmental myth refers to descriptions and explanations that, although narrating real
environmental issues through intelligible, easily apprehensible, and convincing storylines, oversimplify the
concerned human-environment interactions" (Bettini & Andersson, 2014, p 164).
PERCEIVING CONFLICT OR COOPERATION
The connection between global climate change and the militarization or
securitization as a solution fails to meet the standard of empirically supported
observation (Bettini & Andersson, 2014, p. 173). The climate-security nexus hypothesis
is robustly questioned throughout the peer-reviewed academic literature, while
cooperation is strongly supported (see above; see also Tertrais, 2011). The reason that
the nexus is questioned in the literature is that evidence suggests that while
environmental stress is a contributing factor to security concerns, supporting
international institutions and organizational governance structures are effective in
preventing the types of conflict related to national security concerns (Tertais, 2011).
Therefore, the literature is increasingly recognizing that diplomatic and humanitarian
policy solutions are more likely to be effective at mitigating and preventing the
repercussions of global climate change than are the policy solutions of militarization and
securitization. This recognition is also calling attention to whether conflict or
cooperation is perceived as possible solutions and how the issues are framed (Tertais,
THE ROLE OF POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS
The argument presented by those who support a climate-security nexus relies on
the notion that global climate change is potentially a contributing factor to national
security concerns (Kahl, 2006). Scholars like Homer-Dixon, representing the Toronto
Group3, predominantly make arguments of neo-Malthusian persuasion with
environmental stress ultimately leading to conflict, and then devolving into a U.S.
national security concern (Homer-Dixon, 1991). Essentially, the rationale with the
climate-security nexus argument in this guise is that when in combination, several
cascading global climate change events, or stress factors, have the potential to lead to
societal and institutional breakdowns simply due to the complexity of events and the
limited handling capacities of emergency management responders. This is the
conjunctural causation that is described by Kahl (2006), and referred to as cascading
events or threat multipliers within the U.S. military and intelligence community (CNA
2007; Heuer, 1999; Lowenthal, 2015). However, increasingly research and scholars who
initially hypothesized a strong climate-security nexus are empirically validating a new
perspective on the nexus acknowledging that, "demographic and environmental stress
is neither a necessary nor a sufficient cause of such violencethat it must, in other
words, always combine with other social, political, economic, and cultural factors"
(Homer-Dixon, 2006, p. 586).
By identifying, mitigating and building resiliency into each of the
abovementioned areas, the overall climate-security nexus is reduced and the
securitization and militarization of global climate change becomes less clear-cut as a
viable policy solution (Floyd, 2008; Kahl, 2006). This potentially ameliorating effect of
3 Three of the primary scholarly perspectives on the climate-security nexus debate include Homer-Dixon's
Toronto Group, the Copenhagen School, and the Paris School. "While the Copenhagen School outlines
how appeals to security can bring about exceptional measures, governing by decrees rather than by
democratic procedures, the Paris School shows how issues are transformed into security issues outside
the political debate, and security practices are implemented without a clear formulation of the threat"
(Tombetta, 2014, p. 133).
mitigation and building resiliency indicates that a humanitarian, diplomatic and
environmental response to global climate change, as opposed to securitization and
militarization, may prove to be the more affective reaction for the U.S., and
internationally (Busby, Smith, White, & Strange, 2013). After all, currently food
insecurity, water stress, forced migration, and natural disasters affect millions of people
around the globe. Experts recognize that if these issues were not currently sufficient to
mobilize a larger response than what is represented by existing non-profits and
governmental attempts at alleviating the burden, then the militarization or
securitization of global climate change would not likely alter the paradigm, and perhaps
only make it worse (UNDP, 2015).
Furthermore, scholars critique the militarization and securitization of global
climate change because of the ultimate implications of such a framing leading to the
requirement of "extraordinary measures" as a next step in the security process (Floyd,
2008). Floyd clarifies the transition away from human security and toward state security
when "the issue is then moved out of the sphere of normal politics into the realm of
emergency politics, where it is handled without the normal rules and regulations of
policymaking" (2008, p. 58). In this way, precisely, a positive feedback loop is created in
which a concern for national security, including the consideration of human security,
encourages the militarization and securitization of global climate change thereby
reducing the security hoping to be promoted. Extraordinary measures allow for the
types of finite resource consumption that are some of the leading causes of global
climate change (e.g., carbon fuel use by the DoD, environmental damages from military
activities exempted from environmental policies, and continued growth of the military-
INCONCLUSIVE EVIDENCE BLACK SWANS
The argument for potential violent conflict resulting from global climate change
rests on the projection of "black swan" events so extreme in their disruption of normal
societal functioning as to lead to state failure, and thereby indirectly to a U.S. national
security concern (CNA, 2007, 2014; United States, 2013, 2014 a, 2014 b, 2015).
However, specifically which conditions transition the current competition for natural
resources and daily existence into a violent conflict or state failure remains the subject
of ongoing research and is inconclusive (Mayer, 2012; Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007;
Scheffran, 2011). In addition, the peer-reviewed and empirical link between the
climate-security nexus is equally as nascent in justification of current buildups of
resources to militarize or securitize global climate change into U.S. national security
policy, or internationally through the UN Security Council (Baldwin, 2014; Floyd, 2008;
Ogden & Podesta, 2008; Sanwal, 2013). As Scheffran acknowledges, "There is no clear
empirical link between environment and conflict; economic factors are more significant"
(2011, p. 30). Noteworthy in Scheffran's analysis, the low statistical probability for
"black swan" events, while acknowledged to be small, is seemingly given more weight in
the national security dialogue than the more likely instances of mitigating and adapting
through substantial support of the economic and political institutions which are
empirically identified as leading to stability and conflict reduction globally.
While the hard science in the climate change debate is backed up by
peer-reviewed studies, this is not the case for the literature relating
climate change to conflict. In fact, although scarcities like these present
major problems for livelihood and health, the possible link to armed
conflict is highly contested (Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007, p. 630-631).
While the probable effects of climate change as a global political issue and
national security agenda item are apparent, and the empirical data substantiates
anthropogenic causes of global climate change at a high probability (90-99%), the leap
to establish global climate change as a national security issue is primarily contextual and
based on the framing (Baldwin, 2014; IPCC, 2007; IPCC 2014; Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007;
Light, 2014). To be sure, the lack of substantiated and empirical evidence between a
climate-security nexus does not, however, negate warranted concern about a potential
range of security implications. It does call attention to the foundation of sources and
speculation underlying the varied statements of a climate-security nexus, as well as the
policy solution found in militarization and securitization (Kahl, 2006; Nordas & Gleditsch,
2007; Scheffran, 2011).
POTENTIAL SOLUTIONS POLITICAL INSTITUTIONS
The climate-security nexus hypothesis suggests that the inevitable result of a
global climate change environmental hazard will be societal conflict resulting in a
potential crisis affecting, either directly or indirectly, U.S. national security. However,
Scheffran notes that the preponderance of environmental stresses "occurs in countries
which lack a political and institutional framework for crisis management and conflict
resolution" (Scheffran, 2011, p. 31). Essentially, the literature suggests that those places
that are most vulnerable to global climate change effects are those that are also going
to be more vulnerable to conflict. That is to say, regions with weak institutions are more
vulnerable to both global climate change and conflict. National security concerns are
found at the intersection between the two. Concurrently, in areas with stronger
institutions, the link between global climate change and conflict is mitigated.
Here, in Scheffran's research for example, the identification of a framework for
crisis management and conflict resolution standout as indicators for potential solutions
and opportunities to mitigate both the short and long-term repercussions of global
climate change. By focusing on building stronger crisis management and conflict
resolution capacities in developing countries internationally, the national security
interests of the U.S. and abroad may be best served. Scheffran exemplifies this
perspective by concluding that, "Whether climate change favors conflict or cooperation
critically depends on the perceptions and responses of the actors involved and on
societal structures and institutions" (Scheffran, 2011, p. 32). Therefore, efforts to
improve social structures, political institutions and sustainable economic development
counters the climate-security nexus hypothesis with empirically supported potential
solutions available without the militarization or securitization of global climate change
and subsequent environmental stresses (Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007).
Throughout the climate-security nexus literature, an empirical and more
systematic theoretical approach has begun to assess the dual challenge found in the
gaps connecting the fields of global climate change research and conflict research
(Homer-Dixon, 1991, 1994, 1996; Floyd, 2008; Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007). Each field,
global climate change research and conflict research, requires careful attention and
well-reasoned application: "It must be understood, though, that if governments simply
respond with traditional attempts to maintain the status quo and control insecurity they
will ultimately fail" (Abbott, 2008, p. 9). Going further, there is concern that maintaining
the status quo and militarizing or securitizing global climate change may produce the
negative feedback loop attempting to be avoided by reducing available capital to
buildup and increase a growing global middle class (Nagel, 2015).4
Establishing and maintaining a global middle class is increasingly recognized as
the ideal solution to conflict as well as the types of environmental degradation seen in
global climate change (Dunn & Matthew, 2015). However, evidence exists in the
academic literature to suggest that a climate-security nexus "is often formulated in ways
that mix up entities and phenomena at different scales" (Bettini & Andersson, 2014, p.
168). The lenses through which the issues are viewed, and the frames through which
the issues are contextualized, have profound impacts on the policy solutions derived
and the set of responses available from which to select.
Alternative to the climate-security nexus is a climate-cooperation nexus. Here, a
climate-cooperation nexus is defined as the application of available resources toward
supporting the international institutions and governance structures identified as most
4 "Despite the end of the Cold War (characterized by a large-scale U.S.-USSR arms race) in 1990, in 2010
world military expenditures were higher than in any year since the end of the Second World War in 1945.
The United States far outpaced other countries in military expenditures. The U.S. accounted for thirty-
nine percent of global military expenditures in 2012, when military expenditures consumed more than
four percent of the U.S. gross domestic product" (Nagel, 2015, p. 205).
effective in mitigating conflict resulting from the environmental stresses of global
climate change (Nagel, 2015). The literature suggests that cooperation is empirically
linked to conflict resolution in exactly the ways that are required by global climate
change (see Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007, pp. 630-633 for an extensive list of peer-
reviewed sources). Also, evidence in the literature suggests that cooperation and
adaptation are more likely outcomes to conflicts over scarce finite resources if
supported with international structures of agreement, as well as economic and policy
instruments appropriate to each specific region (Sanwal, 2013). The numerous
examples found in the literature for regionally and internationally negotiated
cooperative agreements indicate potential solutions for resource scarcity and
governance stability through political and economic structures and institutions (Carius,
2006; Conca, Carius, & Debelko, 2005; Floyd, 2008; Morton, 2011; Sanwal, 2013).
Conflict represents a scenario incapable of resolving the global climate change
issue because conflict is anathema to the kind of governance stability requisite for
mitigation and adaptation policy to global climate change (Morton, 2011). Cooperation
represents a scenario that is a prerequisite to the creation of mitigating global climate
change policies that recognize "peace is a necessary although not sufficient factor in the
world's ability to respond to global warming" (Wapner, 2013, p. 569). Essentially, the
literature recognizes that solutions to global climate change reside not in militarization
or securitization but through the rule of law operating globally to lift people out of
poverty and stabilize the institutions and mechanisms of sustainable economic
DISCUSSION: RETHINKING SECURITY
In 1947 the National Security Act provided a structure for dealing with the
national security issues confronting the U.S. at that time. Through World War II, the
containment of communism, the collapse of the Soviets and the cold war, and during
the heightened security awareness following the September 11, 2001 attacks, an
evolution of security policy created a structure consistent with maintaining resource
stability domestically and overseas through the use of military force (Abbott, 2008;
Chandra & Bhonsle, 2015; Floyd, 2008). Concurrently, with the most modern iteration
of national security concerns, the desire to protect the U.S. homeland during uncertain
times allowed for the creation of "exceptional measures" like the controversial domestic
anti-terrorism surveillance (ACLU vs. Clapper, 2015). These "exceptional measures" are
one of the concerns of those opposing a climate-security nexus.
Today, rethinking the risks brought about through global climate change require
a new approach to U.S. national security with an emphasis on developing the global
political institutions, cooperative agreements and sustainable economic development
strategies necessary to bridge the emerging norms of climatic uncertainty for the
benefit of both the developed and developing nations. This new approach stands in
stark contrast to the hegemonic discourse rapidly building momentum throughout the
U.S. and elsewhere, recognizing the militarization and securitization of global climate
change as the optimum solution to the problem. Framing is important to this topic. The
way that we perceive and present problems determines the pool of solutions we draw
from to solve those problems.
The complexity here, with global climate change, is that vulnerabilities of
regional environmental stresses and weak or failing states may cascade into U.S.
national security concerns. However, in this instance of global climate change our
strengths are more apt to be found in our ability to mitigate with cooperation rather
than militarize, and our ability to support with adaptation rather than securitize. How
we perceive the problems of national security across society, and the way the media
presents the salient issues for national debate and dialogue, has a significant impact on
the policy solutions. In short, framing by security minded constituents resolves into a
national security concern and solution for global climate change. Whereas, framing by
environmentally minded constituents resolves into a humanitarian or environmental
concern and solution for global climate change.
In relation to the research question under evaluation in this thesis, the
differences between the climate-security and climate-cooperation nexuses emerges
from the way the issues are framed in media reports and key U.S. national security
documents. Whether global climate change and U.S. national security concerns are
linked, and how the framing of both issues are integrated form the lenses for future U.S.
policy diverging from empirical findings in the literature. In order to better understand
these framings, the next section will explore a selection of key U.S. national security
documents to better understand how the climate-security nexus is framed. These
expressions of each nexus, security or cooperation, are seen in the framing of key U.S.
national security documents.
PART 1 QUALITATIVE ANALYSIS OF KEY U.S. NAITONAL SECURITY DOCUMENTS
Despite the evidence presented in the academic literature that a climate-security
nexus is inconclusive, the connection is found throughout many of the key U.S. national
security documents. This framing of the climate-security nexus increased substantially
beginning in 2003 when the Pentagon commissioned a group of scenario planners to
analyze the climate-security nexus question. The documents that grew from that
scenario research conducted by Schwartz and Randall (2003) have become the
dominant framing and the current policy for U.S. national security, the DoD and the
military (NSS, 2010; NSS, 2015). The following section reviews key U.S. national security
documents to assess how the climate-security nexus is currently being framed in media
DOCUMENT ANALYSIS METHOD
The selection of key U.S. national security documents were reviewed and
assessed based on how each of these reports has been perceived and referenced by
subsequent documents. All of the documents either cite to or refer to the Schwartz and
Randall (2003) scenario analysis as an empirical study detailing conclusively the likely
outcomes and impacts resulting from global climate change. Each of the key U.S.
national security documents was analyzed to determine how the climate-security nexus
is being framed. A word-count in both of the National Security Strategy documents
(2010 & 2015) of global climate change is reviewed to highlight how the issue is
becoming a central theme picked up in media reports published from February to
November 2015. These dates are critical because the U.S. National Security Strategy,
published every 5 years, was released for public review in February 2015, and the
subsequent national security policy emanating from the Director of National Intelligence
occurs over approximately the next 5 years until the publication of the 2020 National
Security Strategy. These documents were selected because they represent the primary
structure of U.S. national security policy and implementation.
AN ABRUPT CLIMATE CHANGE SCENARIO & IMPLICATIONS FOR U.S. NATIONAL
In 2002, Andrew Marshall, the Director of DoD's Office of Net Assessment (ONA)
approached Peter Schwartz, the futurist and scenario consultant from Global Business
Network, Royal Dutch/Shell, and prior to those positions, the Stanford Research
Institute. The request to develop a scenario assessing the implications of global climate
change on U.S. national security is a standard part of the efforts to create defense
strategy at the ONA. Examining the probability and considering the impact of all
possible threats to U.S. national security is the primary task of the ONA. The report
Schwartz produced, a foundational document in the climate-security nexus literature,
begins with a straightforward disclaimer on the title page:
The purpose of this report is to imagine the unthinkable to push the
boundaries of current research on climate change so we may better
understand the potential implications on United States national security.
We have interviewed leading climate change scientists, conducted
additional research, and reviewed several iterations of the scenario with
these experts. The scientists support this project, but caution that the
scenario depicted is extreme in two fundamental ways. First, they
suggest the occurrences we outline would most likely happen in a few
regions, rather than on globally. Second, they say the magnitude of the
event may be considerably smaller. We have created a climate change
scenario that although not the most likely, is plausible, and would
challenge United States national security in ways that should be
considered immediately. (Schwartz & Randall, 2003, p. 1)
Subsequent experts and authors may have overlooked this initial disclaimer, as
well as the usefulness of scenario analysis as an analytic tool, and proceeded to connect
the climate-security nexus as conclusive based on the Schwartz and Randall (2003)
scenario analysis (Busby, 2007; Clapper, 2014; CNA, 2007, 2014; Hagel, 2013, 2014;
Obama, 2010, 2015; United States, 2013). This is a crucial point. The usefulness of
scenario analysis as a tool is not in predicting the future, but instead as a means of
analyzing different iterations of possible scenarios and the possible implications on how
decisions are made based on those iterations (Schwartz, 1991). In addition, the authors'
stipulate that the projections are "extreme" and for the purposes of considering the
implications of unlikely events. The Schwartz and Randall report represents the "abrupt
change scenario" in contradistinction to the more likely "gradual climatic warming"
scenarios (Schwartz & Randall, 2003, p. 2).
However, framing global climate change in an "abrupt" way for the military and
national security communities' signals imminent danger and thus leads to the creation
of policy in which the climate-security nexus is dealt with through militarization and
securitization. Then too, the connection between environmental stress and conflict,
while not empirically supported in the academic literature, is assumed throughout the
Schwartz and Randall (2003) scenario. Nonetheless, the resulting media coverage, and
misconceptions about the scenario's intents, became fodder for future subsequent
documents and decision-making processes both inside and outside of the Pentagon
(Shearer, 2005). While framing the climate-security nexus in a specifically conflict-prone
manner, Schwartz and Randall (2003) provide a platform for dialogue between the
national security and environmental communities that expands the discussion while
constricting the solutions because of the ways their scenario analysis has been
misunderstood, misapplied and misused.
NATIONAL SECURITY AND THE THREAT OF CLIMATE CHANGE 2007
The connection between national security and global climate change in the
literature of the national security community and in some academic literature was
further reinforced after the CNA Corporation (CNA; formerly the Center for Naval
Analysis) and the Military Advisory Board published the article, "National Security and
the Threat of Climate Change" in 2007. The Military Advisory Board was composed of
an eleven-member (all male) blue-ribbon panel of retired U.S. generals and admirals
(Busby, 2007; CNA, 2007; Nordas & Gleditsch, 2007). In the CNA report, based in large
part on the Schwartz and Randall (2003) scenario, climate change is identified as a
"threat multiplier for instability in some of the more volatile regions of the world" (CNA,
2007, p. 44). This descriptor, "threat multiplier", has become a guiding star in the
climate-security nexus literature for those who connect global climate change with
conflict resulting in the necessity for U.S. military intervention (Nagel, 2015; Sanwal,
2013). A 'threat multiplier' is a factor contributing to the types of cascading events that
lead to a military or national security concern (CNA, 2007).
The framing of the CNA report is that global climate change will be the impetus
for large-scale migrations of people seeking resources like food and water, existing
border tensions will then increase where weak political regimes are already struggling to
maintain harmony, and disease vectors will become amplified, further exacerbating
vulnerable countries and regions (CNA, 2007, 2014). The report suggests that these
issues will thus require involvement of U.S. military forces for stabilization. In addition,
the CNA report encourages a U.S. commitment "to a stronger national and international
role to help stabilize climate change at levels that will avoid significant disruption to
global security and stability" (CNA, 2007, p. 46). Here, the influence of framing can be
seen to produce a problem statement based on an a priori solution found in the
military-industrial complex. When militarization and securitization are the primary
solutions to national security problems, then each new issue is resolved the same way.
A role is identified for the national security state to play, and scenarios are developed to
implement that role. However, as has been discussed, whether or not environmental
stresses lead to conflict is inconclusive in the academic literature.
NATIONAL STRATEGY FOR THE ARCTIC REGION 2013
In 2007, the Russians sent the Mir I and Mir II micro-subs down to the bottom of
the Arctic Ocean to plant a titanium flag along the Lomonosov Ridge declaring the
territory as belonging to Russia. Due to anthropogenic global climate change, the Arctic
summer sea ice, heretofore in perennial existence, will not exist in another few decades
(IPCC, 2007, 2014). The implications for Arctic melting icecaps are the opening for
shipping of the Northern Sea routes between the North Pole and the Arctic nations
(Russia, America, Canada, Norway, and Denmark via Greenland), as well as the area
claimed (and disputed by America) as the Canadian archipelago known as the Northwest
Passage. The Northern Sea routes and the Northwest Passage represent a reduction of
about 4000 nautical miles between Europe and Asia in comparison to the route through
the Panama Canal. The potential for interstate disputes over these waterways
concerning sovereignty and control is preexisting between the U.S. and Canada. Adding
Russia into the mix only further complicates the severity of concern and creates real
issues of U.S. national security. Beyond the express shipping lanes, there are resource
issues over massive petroleum reserves in the area that were previously inaccessible
due to the Arctic icecaps, as well as unexplored fisheries, mineral exploration, and
tensions concerning Northern defensive boundaries of Intercontinental Ballistic Missile
(ICBM) radar infrastructure for all countries involved.
In the example of the Arctic, the preexisting U.S. national security issue not
requiring global climate change as a negatively influencing factor toward security
concerns is the fact that the U.S. has refused to be a party to and ratify the UN
Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS), as have all of the other Arctic nations. The
UNCLOS is an international adjudicating body that negotiates and delineates maritime
borders and determines rights to regional resources as a means of resolving boundary
disputes prior to the necessity of military conflict. The UNCLOS is overwhelmingly
supported by many parties, including within the U.S. military leadership (as a means of
avoiding conflict with other nations), by U.S. commercial interests (as a means of
increasing profits by decreasing shipping time between Europe and Asia), and by
environmentalists (as a means of protecting wildlife and ecosystems of critical
importance to the world). The U.S. has heretofore neglected to ratify the treaty
because of "a highly motivated few who see treaties as infringements on national
sovereignty have stymied final approval" (Busby, 2007, p. 13).
UNCLOS is an example of the types of political institutions and governance
structures that are empirically linked to reducing international conflict, and thereby
improving and protecting U.S. national security. International coordination is the
recommended suggestion in academic literature to mitigate the issues of global climate
change now through international treaties, like UNCLOS, rather then waiting for the
situation to grow beyond the capabilities of the existing developed nations. "Crisis
prevention costs far less than crisis management at a later stage" (WBGU, 2008, p.10).
The potential progress toward peace and cooperation, toward international acceptance
of the rule of law as a basis for continued (co)existence, or toward resolution of the
current economic system of unsustainable development, are the U.S. national security
issues writ large.
To be sure, when combined with weak institutions, weak infrastructure and
existing political strife and conflict, climate warming and melting sea ice is a vulnerability
that does represent a U.S. national security concern as a cascading event. However,
whether or not the militarization and securitization of global climate change is still very
much in debate. Nonetheless, framing as found in key U.S. national security documents
present policy solutions, namely militarization and securitization, different then that
which is substantiated empirically in the academic literature.
NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY 2010 & NATIONAL SECURITY STRATEGY 2015
Every five years, the Office of the President publishes a National Security
Strategy (NSS) for the U.S. With the climate-security nexus increasingly being promoted
domestically and abroad among the developed nations, the May 2010 U.S. National
Security Strategy (NSS-2010) declares:
The danger from climate change is real, urgent, and severe. The change
wrought by a warming planet will lead to new conflicts over refugees and
resources; new suffering from drought and famine; catastrophic natural
disasters; and the degradation of land across the globe. (Obama, 2010, p.
The efforts identified in NSS-2010 include steps to integrate homeland security
with national security by coordinating emergency management practitioners, the
intelligence community and the military to "prevent, protect against, and respond" to
both natural disasters and security threats (Obama, 2010, p. 15). NSS-2010 integrates
the recognition that improving the rule of law internationally through support of
institutions and governance structures and improving resiliency both domestically and
abroad is key to protecting U.S. national security. In addition, under the section titled
"Advancing Top National Security Priorities", the reduction of emissions and an overall
mitigation of green house gas (GHG) impacts are to be accomplished through "a global
effort to combat climate change" (Obama, 2010, p. 5). While the purpose of such a
document is both strategic as well as political in tone, the overall emphasis is on combat
as a means of remedying climate change throughout the 52 pages.
Increasingly, framing the traditional environmental agenda into a national
security concern to be dealt with militarily, if only through agitprop, creates policy with
militarization and securitization as ultimate solutions: "By doing so, we will enhance
energy security, create jobs, and fight climate change" (Obama, 2010, p. 10; italics
added). The framing structure is repeated consistently in the connection between
climate and conflict requiring security: "Our diplomacy and development capabilities
must help prevent conflict, spur economic growth, strengthen weak and failing states,
lift people out of poverty, combat climate change" (Obama, 2010, p. 11). This framing
connection is seen again with the admonition that the national security goal is to, "spur
economic growth, improve security, combat climate change, and address the challenges
posed by weak and failing states" (Obama, 2010, p. 13).
Five years later, with the February publication of the 2015 National Security
Strategy (NSS-2015), the nexus is firmly established as a top-priority policy driving the
Department of Defense (DoD) and the intelligence community toward militarizing and
securitizing global climate change (Obama, 2015). NSS-2015 goes even further than its
predecessors to articulate a climate-security nexus and frame the issue through the
unique lens of national security. Here, in NSS-2015, the statements become more
explicit and direct, "Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national
security" (Obama, 2015, p. 13). In the thirty-two-page NSS-2015 document, global
climate change is mentioned nineteen times. As a comparison, the 2010 NSS mentions
global climate change twenty-seven times throughout its fifty-two pages.
DISCUSSION: ANALYSIS & INTERPRETATION
Overall, key U.S. national security and policy documents are being framed with a
proposal for militarization and securitization in response to global climate change. The
primary assumption throughout their discussion is that environmental stresses lead
directly into conflict and have the potential to collapse weak or failing states, which
would create the necessity for military intervention. Essentially, this framing follows the
structure of an environmental myth in oversimplifying the causal correlation between
environmental stresses and conflict. Concurrently this framing ignores the debates as
well as the empirical evidence in the academic literature that identifies cooperation as a
possible mitigating factor to the risks associated with national security concerns. In
other words, policy solutions are ignored that have the potential to assuage the
cascading events both relating to U.S. national security, as well as global climate change.
PART 2 MEDIA CODING & ANALYSIS
This section, media coding and analysis, examines the variables in a dataset used
to generate results reflecting the following question: How does the U.S. military,
national security and intelligence communities frame the climate-security nexus in
media reports? The climate-security nexus is the intersection between global climate
change and U.S. national security risks. Currently there is debate as to whether or not
the expected impacts of global climate change will lead to subsequent U.S. national
security risks, including violent conflict in vulnerable regions internationally which lead
to the necessity of U.S. intervention and military action. The analysis of coded content
research examines the way key actors in the debate are taking positions on the issues,
as presented by the U.S. media.
MEDIA CODING METHOD
Pertinent articles were identified through the use of a Google Alert setup for
media reports mentioning the following key words, "DoD, national security & climate
change". Content data was coded in Microsoft Excel 2011 for Mac. The units of
observation are key stakeholders and actors in media reports published between
February and November 2015 coinciding with the release and declassification of the U.S.
National Security Strategy (NSS 2015) on February 1, 2015. See Figure 1 below for a list
of key stakeholders. In addition, a search of LexisNexis media reports with the same key
words covering the same dates provides additional content and ensures a
comprehensive review of media reports during the specified timeframe. This
timeframe, between February and November of 2015, is important because the policies
emanating from the 2015 National Security Strategy will originate from the Director of
National Intelligence (DNI) at the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) from 2015 to
2020. In 2020, the release and dissemination of an updated National Security Strategy
will begin the cycle anew.
In coding the 40 identified media articles, stakeholders and actors are the unit of
observation. Each actor identified in an article is coded according to an organizational
type and then assigned one of the following four positions on the issue of global climate
change as a U.S. national security risk: 1) Pro meaning that the actor is in agreement
that global climate change is a U.S. national security risk; 2) Anti meaning that the
actor is not in agreement that global climate change is a U.S. national security risk; 3)
Neutral meaning that the actor was ambiguous about global climate change as a U.S.
national security risk; and 4) Not Specified meaning that the actor gave no indication
on the topic. In addition to the actors' positions on the climate-security nexus, the
coding process also identified the following list of five issues, whether or not the actors
were identifying these issues in their framing of the topic, as well the actors'
organizational affiliations (see Appendix A for coding rules):
The following five coded issues were identified by the stakeholders: (See Figure 2
1. Climate change and U.S. national security
2. Energy Security
3. Climate change deniers in U.S. Congress put national security at risk
4. Impacts of rising sea levels on national security
MEDIA CODING FINDINGS
The organizational affiliations of the coded actors includes the following six
categories: 1) Department of Defense and U.S. military personnel (both active duty and
retired); 2) members of Congress; 3) Office of the White House personnel (including
President Obama); 4) institutes; 5) universities; and 6) members of the media. 87 actors
were identified in the coding of the 40 media reports. The following percentages
describe actor affiliation: 38% of the actors were affiliated with the DoD and military;
13% with Congress; 16% with the White House; 11% with institutes; 5% with
universities; and 17% with the media. See figure 1 below.
Figure 1, below, graphs organizational positions on the climate-security nexus as
identified in U.S. media reports from February to November 2015. What Figure 1 shows
is that the DoD and the military are strong supporters of a climate-security nexus with a
combined total of 38% overall backing. The White House and media represent a
combined total of 30% overall backing. Universities and institutes represent a combined
total of 12% overall backing. Remaining is Congress with 3% overall backing, and 9%
opposing. Essentially, most of the actors identified who are 'Pro' are either members of
the military or work for the DoD. Fewer actors are 'Anti', and those that are primarily
represent Congress. A small percentage coded as neutral, and none are unspecified.
DoD Congress White House Institute University Media
Pro Climate-Security Nexus
Anti Climate-Security Nexus
Figure 1 Organizational Positions on the Climate-Security Nexus Identified in U.S.
Media Reports from Feb-Nov 2015.
Table 1, below, shows how the organization types and issues identified by the
actors relate. The majority of the actors identify "security" as the most significant issue
emerging from the hypothetical climate-security nexus. Energy security is the second
most significant issue. Climate change deniers and rising sea levels, especially those
affecting Naval bases along coastlines, are the next most significant issues identified.
Less attention is paid to other issues, but as the table suggests, issues such as
"efficiency" and "climate deniers" also are concerns of the actors, according to the
media framing. Here, "efficiency" refers to the recognition that energy efficient
techniques of military energy requirements represent a tactical advantage over less
efficient techniques requiring, for example, more fossil fuel uses. Also of note is that
the group identifying that climate change deniers represent a U.S. national security
threat are referring to those members of Congress who are preventing climate change
legislation, and thus forestalling action on the hypothetical climate-security nexus.
Table 1 Organization type & issues
ORG TYPE ISSUES
Security Energy Deniers Sea Levels Enviro
DoD 31 21 11 8 1
Congress 5 3 1 0 0
White House 14 11 1 4 0
Institute 10 10 1 2 1
University 4 1 0 0 0
Media 13 11 2 2 4
77 57 16 16 6
MEDIA CODING DISCUSSION
The media coding data demonstrates national security as a primary concern for
the actors (column 1 Security), and the environment as a distant concern (column 5 -
Environment). However, what becomes apparent is a disconnection between the
military and DoD actors advocating for a climate-security nexus and the U.S. Congress.
The preponderance coded in the 'Pro' field representing support for a climate-security
nexus. The distinction between the 'Pro' and 'Anti' groups is primarily between
members of Congress who oppose the scientific evidence for anthropomorphic global
climate change, but who are in support of the militarization and securitization of
environmental issues as a U.S. national security risk. The data in Table 1 demonstrates
this framing in the contrast between those who support global climate change and
those who support militarization and securitization. If the two groups were equal in
coding numbers, then we would see agreement between the two topics.
Likewise, those actors in the university or institute columns who coded as 'Anti',
are not opposed to the scientific evidence demonstrating global climate change,
instead, they are opposed to the framing of climate change as a U.S. national security
risk requiring militarization and securitization. While 80% of the coded actors are
identified as 'Pro', and 15% of the coded actors are identified as 'Anti', their primary
argument is not in believing or disbelieving the science of anthropogenic global climate
change, but in the solution of militarization or securitization of environmental policy as
framed by the DoD and military representatives. What is discernable from the data is a
disconnection between the conventional military-industrial complex and the U.S.
SUMMARY & CONCLUSIONS OF EMPIRICAL ANALYSIS
The climate-security nexus as a whole is being framed by the military, DoD and
the intelligence community as a perceived threat to U.S. national security. The
qualitative document review demonstrates how analytic tools, like scenario analysis, can
be incorporated into policy planning through the use of circular references that build on
inconclusive observations. The media coding analysis demonstrates how a continuation
of framing presents both the perception of potential threats to U.S. national security
concerns and the division of consensus around the global climate change issue. In an
effort to resolve either the national security concerns or the climate change concerns,
the practitioners of both fields will need to better understand the implications of this
framing. These results are consistent with the academic literature in finding that
solutions to both, national security and climate change, are to be found in the
application of legislative techniques supporting political institutions and governance
structures. These results inform the literature by refining our current understanding of
the obstacles preventing solutions for national security risks and solutions for climate
change. Both will require an awareness of the risks involved, and solutions that best
mitigate those risks.
DISCUSSION & CONCLUSION
MITIGATION & ADAPTATION A PATH FORWARD
Adaptation is about reducing the effects of climate change on both
human and natural systems; and mitigation is about reducing the causes
of climate change by decreasing the anthropogenic impact on the climate
system (Harry & Morad, 2013, p. 358).
The purpose of this thesis is to explore the climate-security nexus hypothesis.
How does global climate change and U.S. national security potentially interconnect?
The empirical analysis finds that a direct connection is inconclusive, and that the
militarization and securitization of global climate change is unlikely to provide an
effective policy solution. Alternatively, cooperation is an empirically grounded and
empirically supported potential alternative to conflict as a means of mitigating global
climate change and building resiliency throughout international governance structures,
social institutions, and sustainable development. In an effort to begin articulating a
path forward, mitigation and adaptation present the potential for resolution in those
areas where militarization and securitization fail. While conflict emerging from
environmental stresses is inconclusively connected, societal stability emerging from
cooperation is encouraging as a potential solution to conflicts found in environmental
stresses. Therefore, mitigation and adaptation through cooperation present the
stronger argument for effective ways of dealing with the inevitable consequences of
global climate change as well as, ultimately, increasing U.S. national security.
This section explores a potential path forward. Beginning with a review of the
literature that presents alternative policy solutions found in mitigation and adaptation,
cooperation and peace. Environmental justice and equity are considered as requisite
components of both the climate change and national security conversations. Next,
finding balance between economic development and personal contentment expands
our topic beyond policy considerations and introduces recognition that our governance
and policies are deeply ingrained in communities and in individuals. Building and
maintaining a strong middleclass has heretofore represented success of our democratic
experiment, and that success is extrapolated to consider how climate change and
national security share solutions. Finally, the fourth epoch of environmentalism is
considered in light of the potential for a military-environmental complex. This new
complex builds connections between dispirit communities and, potentially, provides
shared objectives pointing to solutions that leverage our unified efforts and connect the
recognition that a healthy environment is the supreme U.S. national security goal.
"Whether climate change favors conflict or cooperation critically depends
on the perceptions and responses of the actors involved and on societal
structures and institutions" (Scheffran, 2011, p. 32).
ENVIRONMENTAL JUSTICE & SOCIAL EQUITY
Current climatic indicators suggest that mitigation and adaptation will
increasingly play a vital role in the effort to regain environmental predictability at the
local and regional levels (Harry & Morad, 2013). The ability to accurately forecast the
climatic future, and make decisions based on that forecast, allows for the creation of
institutions and economic systems that depend on such stability. When the accuracy of
those forecasts diminishes, so to do the institutions and economic systems on which
society depends (Maslin, 2009). Mitigation and adaptation represent the potential to
positively increase national security, and begin the process of recognizing the inevitable
repercussions of global climate change.
Global climate change necessitates a holistic viewpoint encompassing socio-
economic objectives with environmental limits and carrying capacities. Science and
technology, applied to mitigation and adaptation, are limited in use because of the
complexity of the climate change problem on a planetary scale (Harry & Morad, 2013).
Developing countries and the poor are likely to be impacted first as "One-sixth of the
world's population is threatened by water scarcities; 1 in 20 people may be displaced by
a rising sea level; mortality may increase from vector-borne diseases and from
malnutrition linked to income losses" (Stern, et al, 2006, p. 794). The overwhelmingly
disproportionate effects of global climate change on the poor, vulnerable communities
and on Small Island Developing States (SIDS), notwithstanding their minimal
contribution to the problem, brings up issues of environmental justice and equity
precisely because of their particular vulnerabilities (Baldwin, 2014; Dodo, 2014; Voccia,
2011). In these examples, for SIDS, the ability to deny either the preponderance of
science or everyday reality of a changing climate does not exist because their world is
changing now. Then too, the ability to adapt and mitigate to a rapidly changing climate
is beyond the financial wherewithal of already struggling SIDS government budgets and
constrained financial resources (Lazrus, 2012; Voccia, 2011). However, the early
adaptors and innovators of adaptation and mitigation to global climate change are
increasingly emerging in SIDS with current geophysical changes forcing a new
perspective (Baldwin, 2014).
From now on, we will no longer be content to shout about the perils of
climate change. Instead, we believe our acute vulnerability provides us
with the clarity of vision to understand how the problem can be solved;
the objectivity to say that it is in all of our interests to aggressively pursue
that solution; and the courage and determination to lead by example by
walking the path ourselves. (Republic of Maldives, 2009).
Fundamentally, global climate changes are social values and environmental
ethics issues bringing into the debate questions of social and environmental justice
(Rolston, 2012). "Climate change is affecting the poor hardest, as they tend to reside in
more vulnerable areas with inadequate technical or financial resources to deal with the
consequences" (Harry & Morad, 2013, p. 359). Those consequences are a result of
industrialized nations exploiting economic development in an unsustainable manner,
with interspatial and intergenerational social inequity as the foundation for continued
expansion (Kahl, 2006). The inevitable issue to be confronted, and the actual U.S.
national security concern, is the relationship between humans and our environment,
and the manner in which we relate to each other. In this way, climate change remains
but another symptom of our continuing search for ways to interact that is respectful,
empathetic and balanced. These are the areas of study that underlie world religions and
philosophy, more so than economics and security studies attempting to find solutions to
these issues and providing for U.S. national security, through a policy of militarization
PEACE & COOPERATION
Some experts suggest that climate change may precipitate peace (Bachler et al.,
1996; Carius, 2006; Conca, Carius, & Dabelko, 2005; Dunn & Matthew, 2015; Frohlich &
Gioli, 2015; Gartzke, 2012; Gleditsch, 1998). This assertion runs counter to the Neo-
Malthusian worldview underlying much of the climate-security nexus argument found in
the academic literature and many key U.S. national security documents. The German
Advisory Council on Global Change articulately presents pragmatic arguments as to the
necessity and process of global climate change mitigation in their World in Transition:
Climate Change as a Security Risk publication (WBGU, 2008).5 Of particular importance
is the focus on a potential "equity gap" recognized as the impetus for future potential
conflict resulting from poverty and deprivation in the developing nations. What is
recognized throughout the document is the projected belief by those in the developing
nations of a principle that the "polluter pays" (WBGU, 2008, p. 5). Essentially, the
WBGU (2008) suggests a global compensation regime as solutions to both mitigate
existing social and environmental inequalities, in addition to the preventative benefits of
financial assistance in providing the requisite "leapfrog" technologies moving from high-
carbon to low-carbon economic development in developing nations; thus avoiding the
additional industrialization processes that contribute to global climate change. The
Gordian knot is recognized as a need for international cooperation:
The opportunity to establish a well-functioning global governance
architecture will narrow as global temperatures rise, revealing a viscous
5 Unfortunately, the marketing symbolism chosen to represent the document will likely prevent the very
constituents necessary for implementation from getting beyond the title page. A modicum of forethought
in marketing this, or similar, publications could prevent such an issue.
circle: climate change can only be combated effectively through
international cooperation, but with advancing climate change, the basis
for constructive multilateralism will diminish. (WBGU, 2008, p. 6).
Many authors also identify this recognition as an opportunity for the U.S. to lead
in creating multilateral agreements prior to the "viscous circle" spinning out of control
(CNA, 2007, 2014; Floyd, 2008; Morton, 2011; Ogden & Podesta, 2008; Sanwal, 2013;
Scott, 2009). Given the actualities of an impending environmental crisis, critical
elements for successfully transitioning both the rich and the poor include, information
sharing and multilateral response mechanisms. In addition, a perspective requiring
more recognition or empirical research is the observation that "overcoming distrust
remains the single biggest impediment to enhancing regional cooperation" (Morton,
2011, p. 128; italics added). However, neither the military, the national security
infrastructure, the intelligence community, nor the environmental community is likely to
place building trust and decreasing distrust as a top priority in our efforts toward
mitigation and adaptation to global climate change. Furthermore, information sharing
(outside of their own individual communities) in the U.S. national security, the military
and intelligence communities is anathema to their cultures, and trust is always verified
through means and methods that are confidential.
Relatedly, it has been argued that the institutions that provide safety
from environmental degradation (for example, the Environmental
Protection Agency) and the institutions that provide safety from violence
(the military) are fundamental incompatible. The way they work and the
means they employ are in direct opposition to each other: the military
operates secretively, whereas the work of environmental protection
agencies is open and deliberately accessible as they actively seek to
inform and educate the public. (Floyd, 2008, p. 54.)
Increasingly, in our globalized world, peace and cooperation are the byproducts
of participation among nations who integrate toward global rules-based order. Some
scholars argue that including the national security dimension to other areas of global
climate change policy like adaptation and mitigation in a complementary fashion, rather
than as directly competing alternatives, would be a complement to those efforts (Busby,
2007) . The domestic ramifications of global climate change in linear extrapolations (that
is to say a gradual continuation of existing weather patterns incrementally increasing
rather than non-linear "black swan" types of events) are projected to be within the
carrying capacity of the U.S. emergency management infrastructure (Ogden & Podesta,
2008) . The negative implications, then, are as a result of international spillover security
effects leading to U.S. national security concerns and potential risks. Northward
migration from the Caribbean or South American countries, for example, may lead to
direct U.S. national security concerns with associated risks. In this way, the focus of the
climate-security nexus is on the international hotspots with potential for spillover that
would draw the U.S. into scenarios requiring military intervention. Likewise, these same
scenarios represent opportunity to expand cooperation and instantiate peace as a
process based on the rule of law.
ECONOMIC DEVELOPMENT & PERSONAL CONTENTMENT
The hidden premise in extrapolating conflict, as a necessary repercussion of
global climate change, is the belief that the Western-style of modern comfort through
finite resource exploitation is both universal as a goal and worthy of any cost. In this
way, framing the extension of current finite resource consumptive lifestyle choices in
the developed nations is carried over to the developing nations. Through this framing, a
scenario develops in which personal inner discontent is worshiped as a marketing fetish,
as it is in the developed nations, and extends the necessity for finite resource
consumptive patterns to the developing world (Waper, 2013). However, considering
the existence of other possibilities of sustainable economic development may be more
beneficial. For example, in addition to inventing more energy efficient technologies and
low-carbon processes to create products to feed people's insatiable discontent, also
acknowledging the potential inherent in contentment. The admonition for cooperation
then could potentially read: "Conserve non-renewable resources, especially oil, as much
as you can; and plan for a future without it. Cultivate satisfactions which do not either
involve the consumption of non-renewable resources, or add to the human emission of
carbon dioxide" (Meynell, 2013, p. 805). Here, the capabilities of cooperation both
improve mitigation and resilience to global climate change, and start to form a
landscape of sustainable development.
In this way, and perhaps as a nascent global community with the potential for
shared objectives, those working toward national security throughout the intelligence
community and the military share a common purpose with those working in the
environmental disciplines. The shared goals are improving and instantiating national
security and creating sustainable development. The ability to further bridge the historic
gap between these two groups represents a benefit-cost ratio far exceeding the
militarization or securitization of global climate change, green manufacturing processes,
or unfettered economic development. A process of re-acculturating to sustainable
development and sustainable communities does not simply imply that the developed
nations must deindustrialize. It does represent an alternative future scenario that
connects powerful constituents in finding solutions to national security concerns as well
as recognition of universal social and environmental justice ultimately requisite in the
mitigation of global climate change that asks every human to "live ecologically aware
and compassionate lives" (Wapner, 2013, p. 574).
Currently, it is the national security and military-industrial complex who are
already making policy and plans, while the environmental community is still operating
under an outdated belief that they are isolated in their recognition of global climate
change and subsequent environmental problems (CNA, 2014; Obama, 2010; Obama,
2015). This change in focus could be considered the fourth environmental epoch. One
only needs to read the 2015 National Security Strategy to realize how far behind the
environmental community is in perceiving the new players on the field, and the current
direction of the game. In the meantime, there remain more than 3 billion humans
around the world living on less than $2 a day. Elevating each of them out of poverty
should be a policy goal of all countries, however, economic growth and human dignity
does not automatically need to resemble the gluttony and excesses of resource
consumption as found in mainstream America. There are other options and more
powerfully positive scenarios awaiting us all. Scheffran concludes: "A preventative
climate policy would seek to strengthen institutions and cooperation between
developing and developed countries to build a global security community against
climate change" (Scheffran, 2011, p. 37).
ENVIRONMENTAL KUZNETS' CURVE & MIDDLECLASS STRENGHT
If efforts to combat climate change cause nations to stagnate
economically, then the world may unintentionally realize the worst fears
of pundits and politicians for climate-induced conflict. (Gartzke, 2012, p.
The argument for global climate change precipitating peace evolves from the
idea that systemic conflict is seen to decrease as economic development rises (Gartzke,
2012). An Environmental Kuznets' Curve suggests a similar relationship between
increasing economic prosperity and the elevation of populations out of extreme
poverty. In this way, the processes of developed nations that are most linked with the
causes of global climate change are also key contributors to a decline in global conflict
(Gartzke, 2012). Here, we have exchanged polluting the planet, and the extended
possibility of extreme climatic conditions, for the resolution of potential conflict
between nations. A similar bargain was made between Faust and Mephistopheles. The
race is between the advantages of economic development improving the peaceful
tendencies of nations, and the overwhelming environmental damage and
environmental injustice associated with that same economic development. The primary
concern being, that if we retard economic development in our efforts to curb the effects
of global climate change, we will invite the very conflict that we hope to assuage
through climate change mitigation processes (Gartzke, 2012). However, this is a
misinterpretation of the requisite products and services aspired to by developing
nations. People want hot showers and cold beer, not coal-fired power plants and the
resulting pollution and associated costs (Hawken, 1999). Those are benefits that
support and increase our national security, as well as our international security.
If the developed nations could cooperatively work with the developing nations
to deliver those services and desired products, like hot showers and cold beer, in ways
that are symbiotic with sustainable ecosystems and resilient communities, then the
desires for modernity and the desires for global climate stability sought after by
developed and developing nations alike could be attained (Gartzke, 2012). Essentially,
instead of funding the militarization of global climate change and the securitization of
the environment, the developed nations may be better served assisting the developing
nations in transitioning from high-carbon to low-carbon energy systems, and making
that same transition themselves, in an effort to become leaders on climate change
instead of laggards. The repercussions of this assistance would be innovation, economic
development, and the building of international political and institutional architectures
sufficient to produce resiliency and stability throughout a changing climate (Barbier &
Homer-Dixon, 1999; Kahl, 2006).
Aligning the urgency to effectively deal with global climate change with U.S.
national security concepts and U.S. military supporters may provide the metamorphosis
necessary within the U.S. political spectrum for mitigation and adaptation to begin to
occur (Light, 2014). This recognition of a Military-Environmental Complex6 projects an
increasing military improvement of fuel use, reduction of fuel demand, energy efficiency
and the promotion of renewable energy sources, both in campaign and on base, which
also corresponds to the objectives of U.S. national security policy and the environmental
community alike (Eady, 2009). Increasingly, through this newfound alliance, an
alignment of the U.S. military's mission and the objectives sought after in mitigation and
adaptation to global climate change are converging.
The tactical and strategic development put into contingency plans for U.S.
military operations in response to U.S. national security concerns run parallel to the
tactical and strategic planning for transitioning from a high-carbon to a low-carbon
economy (United States, 2014). As the militarization and securitization of global climate
change increases and evolves, an environmental community aware of potential
synergistic opportunities to advance policy reflective of the new realities of global
warming and climate change could help to maintain social legitimacy around the
environmental debate and continue the ecological dialogue (Light, 2014). This
recognition of potential synergies between the environmental community and the
national security community acknowledges and leverages the reality that "security is
regarded as a more potent hook to get the attention of political heavyweights" (Busby,
2008, p. 469), in addition to the legislative benefits found in support of the military-
Then too, the leveraging of societal and political ideology toward advancing U.S.
6 This phrase is attributable to Light (2014) in the article, "The Military-Environmental Complex", 55 B.C. L
Rev. 879, 884-888.
national security interests or progressive endeavors is not entirely without precedents.
As an early example in U.S. history, the logistical challenge seen during the War of 1812
found the U.S. lacking the requisite infrastructure to transfer supplies and soldiers to
locations where they were most needed (Kelly, 1978). By identifying the infrastructure
necessity, roads, as support for our military, a national conversation and subsequent
action to consider the federal governments' position in the construction and financing
of national infrastructure for military purposes arose and was eventually approved
(Light, 2014). In this example, through framing that aligns citizen values and beliefs with
the U.S. military, financial support and federal funding was provided (Kelly, 1978).
Other examples of citizen support for military efforts to improve national security
include the Eisenhower transportation infrastructure, the development and research
leading to the Internet as well as a subsequent increase in overall middleclass growth,
and one could also include the G.l. bill increasing college access and, thereby, also
increasing the middleclass.
Similarly, identifying military casualty numbers, which currently total in the
thousands, in the public conversation over resource efficiency of U.S. military members
in overseas fuel convoy attacks as a direct result of fuel inefficiency may help to frame
the mitigation and adaptation response necessary to start approaching global climate
change as a U.S. policy concern immediately (Eady, 2009). The more fuel military units
require, the more fuel convoys are needed to supply those military units. Each fuel
convoy requires military personnel to defend the shipment from its source to the
combat field on the front lines or floating in an ocean. U.S. fuel convoys represent a
prime target for enemy combatants in overseas campaigns as disrupting these supplies
represents an easy way to disrupt activities on the frontlines. Thus, the more fuel that is
required the more military personnel are put in harms way. Contrariwise, fuel efficiency
represents a decrease in the need for fuel convoys as well as the total amount of fuel
required to support military activities overall. More efficient technology is a shared
objective both for the military-industrial complex and the environmental community
seeking sustainable solutions to current climate issues.
A World War II ethos, similar to the U.S. national recycling campaign to provide
fodder to the military-industrial complex, at that time working to defeat national
socialism and the Nazis, is emblematic of our potential to achieve common objectives
when framing and ideology support concurrent ideals of national pride and resource
efficiency. In this way, "a renewable energy project may be more likely to attract
political support among military stakeholders like Congress and the President if that
project is promoting a value like national security or military strength rather than [just]
the environment" (Light, 2014, p. 9). The U.S. military was, and is, a linchpin of common
objectives, values and beliefs for American society. Harnessing that potential, and
maintaining reciprocal societal benefits and transparency from U.S. military research
and development, remains the endeavor of those who frame the issues rapidly
approaching our society as a result of global climate change in conjunction with U.S.
national security and military purposes. Needless to say, ultimately we share those
objectives necessary to overcome the impacts of global climate change with all humans
on the planet. What potential is possible when a message framing includes all, rather
than excluding portions, of the total population of humanity?
Questioning and critiquing the proffered connection in the academic literature
between a climate-security nexus risks presenting the false perspective that discourse
concerning global climate change is not paramount in current policy and politics
dialogues, or that such discourse should be dismissed. To be sure, global climate change
is an immediate and pressing concern to all of humanity. However, accepting without
question the environmental myth (as opposed to a sound empirical grounding) of the
implied climate-security nexus does a disservice to the topic as well as any potential for
(re)framing the conversation at the policy level. Rather than applying preexisting
solutions to emerging problems, the global climate change and U.S. national security
issues require an acknowledgement found throughout empirical studies in the academic
literature identifying those processes of cooperation and negotiated agreements as
most successful in bringing about the stability sought after by environmental groups and
the U.S. national security mindsets alike (Sanwal, 2013).
Based on a close reading of the environmental and national security literature,
global climate change will have varying effects on the developed as well as the
developing nations. The climate-security nexus is nebulous and inconclusively
supported by empirical evidence in the peer-reviewed research literature. Nonetheless,
cascading events have the potential to increase security concerns and topple currently
weakened or failing states. Those who are already in vulnerable economic positions and
who live in close proximity to the environment will likely be impacted most. Wealthy
countries are neither impervious to future climate change scenarios negatively
impacting their standards of living, nor without a portion of responsibility to support
efforts toward mitigation today.
On the one hand, addressing climate change in the security mode raises
one of the most pressing issues of our time to the top of the
policymaking agenda and into individuals' consciousness. On the other
hand, it can have adverse effects on both the natural environment and on
the most disadvantaged members of international society. (Floyd, 2008,
The immediacy surrounding efforts to reduce existing social and environmental
injustices between and within the developed and developing countries is only magnified
by the urgency of global climate change. It remains in all of our best interests to work
toward mitigating the negative implications that global climate change represents, and
continue the longstanding efforts to create cooperative institutions and secure
governance structures for all communities worldwide. To be gained is a well-
functioning dialogue that both members of society and politicians may use to translate
the realities of our current situation into pragmatic environmental policy. To be sure,
"We need to find ways for our economy to progress, for people to feel a sense of
abundance and hope without destroying the viability of the earth's ecosystem"
(Schwartz, 1991, p. 216).
Metaphorically, global climate change can be considered as humanity
attempting to find ways of living with one another peacefully, respectfully, and
empathetically (the categorical imperative). There are areas of study and a substantial
body of knowledge and literature that has for some time now explored these very
topics. For example, Buddhists have been analyzing this subject area for a number of
years in their writings and philosophy. One way to consider this perspective is that we
should treat others as we wish to be treated. If this perspective is considered, then the
action items necessary to move in that direction becomes obvious, and the behaviors
leading to global climate change anathema to our global society or our primary
objective of national security. Dr. Meynell, in his excellent essay on the topic of global
climate change, brings clarity to this recognition of preexisting knowledge cultures to
our topic by acknowledging how, "Buddhists may well point out, that our present
ecological plight is merely where the indulgence as opposed to elimination of our
cravings has inevitably brought us" (Meynell, 2013, p. 807).7
While this thesis finds conflict inconclusively connected with environmental
stresses, a potential solution to the types of national security issues resulting from
global climate change may be found in cooperation and the of support of political
institutions and governance structures. Although cooperation is no guarantee of
peaceful resolution for international disputes, it does present a possible path forward.
The shared objectives and common goals, either between the U.S. national security and
environmental communities or between the U.S. and developing nations, represent
opportunities to advance international security as well as the mitigation and adaptation
required by global climate change. Ultimately, the choice between conflict and
cooperation represents the larger dynamic of how we will organize our global society.
7 The concise essay by Dr. Maynell is excellent in its eloquence and simplicity of design in logical
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Environmental Policy: Climate change as a U.S. national security issue
Unit of Observation: The actor/organization is the unit of observation.
o Specific Actor Org ID is an abbreviated description of the actor's
o Actor Org Name is the full name of the actor organization,
o Actor Name is the name of the actor, where mentioned. If no specific
organization is mentioned, use the same Specific Actor Org ID (column G).
o Generic Actor Org Type: preset category
Do not code generic organizational affiliations named in the article, such as
environmental groups, industry, or scientists.
For op-eds, code the author as actor.
For editorials, code author or if no author mentioned, hosting organization such as
the newspaper as the actor/organization.
Positions (columns K, L, and M) should only be coded if obvious, regardless of the
evidence supporting this assertion or relation to benefits/harms.
o Neutral/Mixed position, like Pro and Anti, should only be used if the actor
explicitly expresses a mixed or neutral position towards
militarization/securitization of climate change,
o Not Specified should be used when a Pro/Anti/Neutral position is not
Code Issues only if stated or strongly implied. Multiple issues are possible; use
semicolons to separate lists.
1. Climate change and U.S. national security
2. Energy Security
3. Climate change deniers in U.S. Congress put national security at risk
4. Impacts of rising sea levels on national security