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Climate Security: Impacts and Opportunities for Transatlantic Relations

Climate Security: Impacts and Opportunities for Transatlantic Relations

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This policy brief argues that given the lack of progress in the international climate negotiations, foreign-policy and defense sectors on both sides of the Atlantic should develop a contingency plan based on closer military and foreign-policy collaboration.
This policy brief argues that given the lack of progress in the international climate negotiations, foreign-policy and defense sectors on both sides of the Atlantic should develop a contingency plan based on closer military and foreign-policy collaboration.

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Published by: German Marshall Fund of the United States on Nov 17, 2010
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Summary:
Climate change isone of the most serious political,diplomatic, and social challengesfacing the transatlantic community.Given the lack of progress in theinternational climate negotiations,foreign-policy and defense sectorson both sides of the Atlantic shoulddevelop a contingency plan basedon closer military and foreign-policycollaboration. Early coordination on the political and military fronts toaddress the security implications of climate change will enable a more
exible response in both sectors.
The transatlantic partners should1) assess the security implicationsof climate change in areas of joint
strategic interest; 2) dene oppor
- tunities for cooperation in noveloperating environments, researchand development, horizon scanning,and sharing of bases; 3) consideroperating as a strategic hub forinternational dialogue on climatechange’s potential security implica- tions; 4) build closer civil-militaryrelationships in particularly at-riskparts of the globe to strengthenregional resilience and enhanceearly-warning capabilities; and 5)develop joint structures to facilitatea continual assessment of the risksclimate change could pose to areasof common interests.
Climate and Energy Program
Policy Brie 
Earlier this year, U.K. Foreign Secre-tary William Hague argued thatclimate change is perhaps the 21stcentury’s biggest oreign policy chal-lenge along with such challengesas preventing the spread o nuclearweapons.”
1
With implications orpolitical, economic, and social stability,both domestically and in areas o  joint strategic concern abroad, climatechange is already exerting a “slowbut irresistible inuence on humanbehavior and societies.
2
It is thereoreessential that the transatlantic partner-ship is maintained and developed inpreparation or the geopolitical shisthat are likely to occur as a result o climate change.Te United States and Europe continueto value the transatlantic alliance.U.S. Secretary o State Hillary Clintonrecently declared that the United States“needs strong and active Europeanpartners more than ever.”
3
Responding
1
U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Ofce, 2010. “The
diplomacy of climate change,” speech delivered byForeign Secretary William Hague at the Council of ForeignRelations, New York, 27 September, http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/news/latest-news/?view=Speech&id=22933444,
accessed 28 September 2010.
2
U.K. Foreign and Commonwealth Ofce, 2010. Preparing for Global Climate Change: An Adaptation Plan for the
FCO, p. 1.
3
U.S. Department of State, 2010. Secretary Clinton’sParis speech on European security, http://fpc.state.gov/136344.htm, 1 February, accessed 20 September2010.
Climate Security: Impacts andOpportunities for Transatlantic Relations
by Dr. Tobias Feakin and Duncan Depledge
1744 R Street NWWashington, DC 200091 202 683 2650F 1 202 265 1662E ino@gmus.org
November 2010
in kind, the U.K. Minister or Deence,Liam Fox, stated that “NAO willremain our rst instrument o choiceor responding to the collective secu-rity challenges we ace.
4
Te Westcontinues to share vital strategic andeconomic interests, a large stake inthe smooth running o liberal globalinstitutions, and common oreign-policy challenges that simply cannot beaddressed adequately without coop-eration (the most prominent beinginternational terrorism).However, since the collapse o theSoviet Union, members o the trans-atlantic alliance have questionedwhat its uture holds in a new globalera characterized by climate change,transnational threats, the growingassertiveness o newly emerging states(including China, India, and Brazil),and the increasing prevalence o nonstate actors on the global stage. In2009, U.S. President Barack Obamadescribed transatlantic relations asbeing at a “crossroads” in a world thathas become smaller and more inter-connected than at any time in history.
5
 
4
U.K. Ministry of Defence, 2010. “Strategic Defence and
Security Review,” speech delivered by Secretary of Statefor Defence at the Royal United Services Institute, London,14 June, http://www.mod.uk/DefenceInternet/AboutDe-
fence/People/Speeches/SofS/20100614StrategicDefenceAndSecurityReview.htm, accessed 20 September 2010.
5
White House, 2009. Remarks by President Obama at
 
Climate and Energy Program
Policy Brie 
2that characterize transatlantic relations have indeed shied,it is not necessarily to the detriment o the alliance.
Cooperation in a Changing Climate
Te security implications o climate change are most likely to be elt in areas o joint strategic concern overseas as they interact with pre-existing security dynamics. Te MiddleEast, sub-Saharan Arica, and South Asia are amongthe most vulnerable to climate change. Consequently,promoting shared interests, managing common threats, andexpanding the policy options or doing so in the comingdecades demands not only continued cooperation but also abroader and more comprehensive transatlantic partnershipthan in the past. Te ailure o the international commu-nity to strike a comprehensive deal to address climatechange through key international policy orums includingthe United Nations Framework Convention on ClimateChange, G8, G20, and the Major Economies Forum meansthat the West cannot rely on the development o a globalramework through which to pursue its strategic goals.While the pursuit o a globally coordinated response shouldin no way be abandoned, a contingency plan is required.In doing so, it is vital that the transatlantic community develop and share knowledge about the implications o climate change or oreign policy and deense. Much o thegroundwork or such a partnership has already been laid,as is evidenced by the large number o intelligence reviews,strategy papers, policy bries, and academic papers thathave come out o both the United States and Europe overthe last 20 years citing the implications o climate change asa pervasive challenge to national and international secu-rity.
11
However, more is needed to prevent the duplicationo eorts, address knowledge gaps, and orge a commonstrategy to address the challenges that climate change poses.
Assessing the Current State of Knowledge
Te implications o climate change or deense and oreignpolicy are complex. Tey are expected to aect a plethora o issues concerning choices about mitigation and adaptationstrategies, energy security, nuclear prolieration, migration,social justice and accountability, shiing territorial bound-
11
The US National Intelligence Council have published a range of regional impact reports,
which can be accessed at http://www.dni.gov/nic/special_climate2030.html
We are thereore orced to consider whether the transat-lantic relationship will still be central to the management o global security in this new era.
6
Transatlantic Relations in Crisis?
A number o recent media articles have suggested thatthe transatlantic alliance is in crisis.
7,8
While such hyper-bole overstates the extent o any ri between the Atlanticallies, the events behind recent proclamations cannot beignored. America’s international ocus has indeed shiedeast towards the Pacic as the United States reconguresits oreign policy to strengthen its strategic and economicposition in relation to, and in recognition o, the growingimportance o emerging powers in Asia. Europe is conse-quently becoming less central to the U.S. world view.
9
 At the same time, the recent entry into orce o the Lisbonreaty has signaled an opportunity or EU member statesto ease their traditional post-war reliance on America orsecurity and economic prosperity as the EU steadily movestowards becoming a proactive security actor in its ownright. It is perhaps this shi in the orm o EU “actorness”that has posed one o the biggest challenges to transatlanticrelations. In ratiying the Lisbon reaty, the EU has raisedU.S. expectations o what the EU can achieve as a secu-rity actor — in essence, expecting EU member states toshoulder a larger share o the burden o maintaining inter-national security. Unortunately, this has been interpretedin some European quarters as meaning that EU resourcesshould serve American strategic interests, and it is perhapsthis tension that is inorming those who see a crisis in trans-atlantic relations.
10
However, although the strategic interests
Strasbourg Town Hall, 3 April, http://www.whitehouse.gov/the_press_ofce/Remarks-by-President-Obama-at-Strasbourg-Town-Hall, accessed 20 September 2010.
6
Jones, B, 2010. “The coming clash? Europe and U.S. multilateralism under Obama,”Brookings Institution, http://www.brookings.edu/papers/2010/06_europe_us_jones.aspx, accessed 20 September 2010.
7
Peters, K, 2010. Why Obama is ignoring Europe,
Spiegel Online
, 2 September, http://
www.spiegel.de/international/europe/0,1518,676799,00.html, accessed 20 September2010.
8
Ackerman, B, 2008. The coming transatlantic crisis,
Guardian.co.uk 
, 2 September,
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2008/sep/02/usforeignpolicy.eu, accessed20 September 2010.
9
Institute for Public Policy Research, 2009.
Shared Responsibilities: A National Security Strategy for the UK 
, the nal report of the IPPR Commission on National Security in the
21st Century, p. 31.
10
Biscop, S, 2010. Of Greeks and Romans: The EU, US and security strategy in a multi
-polar world,
FRIDE 
, http://www.fride.org/publication/735/of-greeks-and-romans:-the-eu,-
us-and-security-strategy-in-a-multipolar-world, accessed 20 September 2010.
 
Climate and Energy Program
Policy Brie 
3aries, sovereignty claims, government legitimacy, localresilience, and ungovernable spaces where nonstate actorscan operate with impunity. It is because climate change caninteract with all these dierent issues that climate change isoen described as a “threat multiplier,” with the potential toalter geostrategic balances and exacerbate political, social,and economic and tensions around the world, at all levelsrom the local to the international.
12
As climate change is likely to inuence precipitationpatterns, extreme weather events, local temperatures, icecover, and sea levels, the broad consensus among scien-tists is that we will see reductions in land habitability andproductivity, water scarcity, inundation, environmentaldegradation, increased health problems, populationdisplacement, and signicant damage to energy, trans-port, and communications inrastructure. Tese impactscan intertwine with existing political, social, cultural, and
12
Center for Naval Analyses, 2007. National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,http://securityandclimate.cna.org/, accessed 20 September 2010, p. 3.
economic trends and could potentially trigger resourcescarcity, humanitarian crises, the overstretching o tradi-tional government and governance structures, land-useconicts, and migration, particularly in those areas with theleast capacity to adapt.At the same time, new opportunities to exploit valuablenatural resources are emerging in the Arctic and elsewhere,urther contributing to the redrawing o geopolitical maps,and potentially uelling disputes over territory, access toresources and governance. As temperatures continue torise, tempers could are unless anticipated and careully managed through common endeavor. Te consequenceshave the potential to impair progress towards the Millen-nium Development Goals, disrupt the global economicsystem, and, in a worst-case scenario, trigger state ailure inalready ragile regions. Ultimately, the impacts o climatechange threaten to undermine the global economic andpolitical stability on which states on both sides o theAtlantic depend or continuing security and prosperity.
Managing Change (and Perceptions)
It is difcult to predict precisely the implications o thesedestabilizing pressures or the timerames within which themight occur, as they might be moderated by eorts to adaptto or mitigate the worst physical impacts o climate changeor, conversely, accelerated by so-called tipping points inthe climate system. Realistically, over the next 20 years,perceptions and representations o the dangers o climatechange are perhaps likely to be more signicant than any catastrophic changes to the physical environment. Te U.S.National Intelligence Committee and the Pentagon haveboth warned about the potential or zero-sum perceptionso a rapidly changing environment to encourage states totake unilateral actions to secure resources, territory, andother strategic interests.
13,14
Te challenge o climate changeto the transatlantic community is thereore as much polit-ical, economic, and social as it is physical.Concurrent to climatic changes, the world in comingdecades will continue to experience rapid populationgrowth, urther globalization, greater global inequality,greater interdependence among state and nonstate actors,
13
U.S. National Intelligence Council, 2008, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World.”
14
U.S. Department of Defense, 2010, “The Quadrennial Defense Review Report.”
Climate change is expected to
affect a plethora of issues suchas mitigation and adaptationstrategies, energy security, nuclearproliferation, migration, social justice and accountability, shifting  territorial boundaries, sovereigntyclaims, government legitimacy,local resilience, and ungovernablespaces where nonstate actors canoperate with impunity.

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