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Climate Change and National Security


ClimateChange and National Security

ClimateChange and National Security


Thearticle “Climate change and national security” was written byJoshua Busby and published by the Council for Foreign Relations in2007. The author addresses the controversial issue of the impact ofclimate change on homeland security as well as the internationalsecurity. More importantly Busby is able to identify both direct andindirect effects of climate change on security. Some of the keyeffects of climate change that are addressed in the article includethe destruction of military resources by natural catastrophes,recalling of military forces from other countries (such as Iraq) withserious cases of insecurity, an increase in immigrants, anddestabilization of the government, which reduces its capacity to dealwith criminal groups 1.Busby also proposes some solutions to the challenge of climatechange, which include formulation of no-regret policies, policiesthat address the issue in multiple domains, prevention measures,promoting research, enhancing diplomacy, and institutional reforms.


Thereare two factors that make the article relevant and its ideas are moreconvincing to the readers as well as the targeted stakeholders.First, Busby address the two sides of the issue, which means that heis able to identify the impacts of climate change on national andinternational security and possible solutions to reduce the impacts.For example, Busby identifies that natural events that result fromclimate change (such as tsunamis and floods) destroy militaryresources, thus reducing the capacity of the military forces to dealwith

1Busby, W. Climatechange and national security.New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2007, p. 8.

issuesof insecurity at the national and international level. This can beresolved by organizing regional conferences to create a platform formilitaries to discuss natural disasters and strategies forpreparedness 2.Secondly, Busby presents ideas in an objective way. This has beenenhanced by supporting ideas using the data from empirical researchfindings of established organizations, such as the InternationalInstitute for Environment and Development and the Center forStrategic and International Studies among others. This enhancesreliability of ideas presented in the article.


Busbyaddresses the issue of impacts of climate change on national securityfrom a broad perspective. This allows the author to extend thedefinition of national security to cover the natural occurrences thatoccur without human intentionality 3.From this approach, it is possible to identify both direct andindirect impacts of climate change on national security. For example,the article makes it possible to link between climate change and theincrease in the rate of immigration, which threatens the nationalsecurity and international security. Moreover, Busby manages toidentify potential security challenges that might arise from what isperceived to be the positive impacts of climate change. For aninstant, the open up of routes in the Northern Sea will result in theinternational aggression, which is a major security threat. Thisimplies that climate change endangers the national securityregardless of whether its short-term impacts are positive ornegative.


2Busby, W. Climatechange and national security.New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2007, p. 12.

3Ibid, p. 5.

Effectsof climate change on security affects all parts of the world,including the developed and developing countries. Busby has managedto address these issues with critical examples of the effects ofclimate change on security status in developed countries (such as theUnited States) and developing countries (such as Ethiopia) 4.The potential impacts and solutions are well articulated in thearticle, but the main challenge is to pass the information to thestakeholders who have the primary responsibility of protecting theenvironment. For example, informing people in war torn regions (suchas Somalia) about their contribution in reducing environmentaldegradation is a challenge. Although Busby emphasizes on theimportance of the United States in helping the developing countriesin preventing the occurrence of climate change instead of waitinguntil it occurs, it is the responsibility of all governments andnon-governmental organizations to increase awareness in all parts ofthe world. This is because climate change is a serious issue thatcannot be handled by one government, but a concerted effort of allnations.


Thereare three areas of specific application of ideas presented in thearticle. First, addressing the issue of climate change will reducethe proliferation of radical groups because governments will bestable enough to counter their growth. This is more important tocountries such as Indonesia, where radical groups already exist andeffects of climate change would only give them an opportunity tothrive 5.Secondly, the formulation of effective policies to control climatechange will reduce massive immigration that subjects the homeland andthe international community at security threats. For example,supporting

4Busby, W. Climatechange and national security.New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.

5.Ibid, p. 6.

countriessuch as Haiti to reduce the effects of climate change will reduce thenumber of legal and illegal immigrants into the United States, whichwill enhance the national security. Third, the use of policies withmultiple domains will enhance agricultural production, which willincrease food security and national safety. This is because people,especially in the developing countries will not scramble for scarceresources.


Theoccurrence of fatal effects of climate change (such as floods andsignificant decline in food production) has sensitized theinternational community and pressured governments and internationalorganizations to take make the strategies of preventing furtherenvironmental degradation. For example, Obama’s administrationannounced in February 2014 that it will create regional climate hubsthat will help farmers in responding to risks associated with climatechange, which include floods, pest invasion, and drought 6.The European Union has also taken a similar initiative by trading oncarbon emission permits with the objective of putting in place amarket incentive method of reducing the release of greenhouse gases.These approaches indicate with an increase in the perception thatengaging all the stakeholders at individual and organizational levelsis the best way of reducing climate change and security threats.

Comparisonwith other literature

Thereare other researchers who have gained interest in the area of climatechange and national security. Brown, Hamill, and McLema identifiedclimate change as the major source

6.Davenport, C. Whitehouse announces 7 regional climate hubs.New York: New York Times, 2013.

ofhuman conflict in the modern world 7.This is because climate change results in the depletion of fisheries,failure of water supplies, and land degradation, which leads to thehuman struggle for scarce resources. The authors also attributed theproblem of food insecurity to climate change. However, Brown andassociates focused on impacts of climate change in Africa while Busbyaddressed the issue with a global perspective. The authors of thesearticles on climate change emphasize on the formulation of effectivepolicies as the most effective means of preventing climate change.Busby, unlike other authors emphasizes on the importance of researchand institutional reforms.

7Brown,O., Hammill, A. and McLeman, R. Climate change as the new securitythreat: Implications for Africa. InternationalAffairs83 no. 6 (2007): 1141-1154.


Brown,O., Hammill, A. and McLeman, R. Climate change as the new securitythreat: Implications for Africa. InternationalAffairs83 no. 6 (2007): 1141-1154.

Busby,W. Climatechange and national security.New York: Council on Foreign Relations, 2007.

Davenport,C. Whitehouse announces 7 regional climate hubs.New York: New York Times, 2013.