LONDON: Senior military officials from around the world have publicly warned of the security risks posed by extreme weather events, which are becoming increasingly aggravated by climate change.
Following flooding across the UK this month, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, former Royal Navy aircraft carrier commander and chief UK climate envoy in 2013, stated that the UK government can no longer afford to disregard the importance of acting on climate change.
In the wake of UK’s disrupted power, train lines and homes from flooding, Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti told website RTCC that climate change goes beyond borders, and that countries cannot “pull up the drawbridge” to stop its impacts.
His stark warning was also repeated this week by Germany’s army, the Bundeswehr. Hartmund Behrend, the German Army’s climate risk expert, stated that climate change should be handled as a foreign policy issue, and that it is now a priority for the Bundeswehr. He told RTCC: “Key environmental and resource constraints, including health risks, climate change, water security and increasing energy needs will further shape the future security environment in areas of concern to NATO and have the potential to significantly affect NATO planning and operations.”
The opinion is echoed by Australian military too, where last week the country’s Chief of Army Lieutenant-General David Morrison stated climate change and related disaster management must be worked into all future military plans. During an address in Sydney, he said: “You have to look at the region with a number of low-lying islands to I think be confident in drawing conclusions that there will be a role for the military as a result. I think that the most likely role for the military however will be in providing immediate assistance for humanitarian and disaster relief.”
Lieutenant-General Morrison’s comments came just days after the US Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change a "weapon of mass destruction" during a speech he gave in Indonesia, foreshadowing the global military chorus for action to curb climate change and its costly impacts.
Also spotlighting implications for America's national security in a changing climate, Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, Chief Executive Officer, American Security Project and member of The Climate Group's International Leadership Council (pictured), said at last September’s Climate Week NYC: "Climate change is caused largely by the burning of fossil fuels. It’s real. And it’s already affecting our national security. It threatens our security because it is a ‘threat multiplier,’ or an ‘accelerant of instability’ that affects issues like food, water, energy security. It’s already driving internal and cross-border migration. And it’s causing food and water security challenges.”
He added: "Security is an argument for risk management – something that militaries (and I would know) do well. […] The importance that military and defense planners place on climate change shows that the world is demanding action and is ready to address this issue. Those who disagree with the clear global military consensus on climate change are ignoring risk and putting the world’s security in danger.”
The global military call for world leaders to reduce climate risk comes six months before leaders will attend the UN Climate Summit, which takes place during Climate Week NYC 2014, and aims to mobilize ambition ahead of agreement on a new global climate treaty in 2015.
Speaking at the 50th Munich Security Conference earlier this month, Ban Ki-moon, UN Secretary-General, reiterated the military consenus on climate risks when he said: “Climate change is every much a security threat as an armed group bent on plunder.”
More details about Climate Week NYC 2014 will be available on our website soon.
By Clare Saxon