Chronology of Military and Intelligence Concerns About Climate Change

by Arturo Herrera on January 12, 2017

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As we look toward a new Administration in the United States, and the path forward on addressing the myriad threats in a rapidly-changing geostrategic landscape, it’s worth having a clearer understanding of how the U.S. national security community has come to  its current level of concern about climate change. This concern didn’t happen overnight, or under a single administration. Rather, it’s the culmination of decades of assessments stretching back to the end of the Cold War.

In popular discourse, it’s often assumed that climate change is a brand new issue for the national security world – an interloping latecomer. The truth is that it’s not. The U.S. military has been concerned about climate change since the George W. Bush Administrationat the latest, but military institutions such as the Naval War College have been warning policy-makers since 1990, during the first Bush Administration. The intelligence community has also been in the game since the early 1990s, with the establishment of the MEDEA program – a structured collaboration between climate scientists and U.S. intelligence agencies – and has been releasing intelligence estimates on the national security implications of climate change since 2008, under the direction of then Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Dr. Thomas Fingar.

To clarify the historical record on this subject, we are therefore posting below an updated chronology of US Department of Defense (DoD) and Intelligence Community (IC) products that explicitly address the climate change threat. A broader look at other national and international security documents addressing climate risks can be found on the Climate Security Chronology and Resource Hub.

Department of Defense

2016: 2016 Special Issue: Climate Change and Policy, Marine Corps University Journal

2016: DoD Directive 4715.21: Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience. U.S. Department of Defense

2016: Joint Publication 1-02: Department of Defense Dictionary of Military and Associated Terms. U.S. Department of Defense

2016: Regional Sea Level Scenarios for Coastal Risk Management: Managing the Uncertainty of Future Sea Level Change and Extreme Water Levels for Department of Defense Coastal Sites Worldwide, U.S. Department of Defense

2015: El Nino: Potential Asia Pacific Impacts: U.S. Pacific Command

2015: DoD Instruction 3200.21 “Sustaining Access to the Live Training Domain”: U.S. Department of Defense

2015: National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate [Report to Congress on Geographic Combatant Command responses to climate risks], U.S. Department of Defense

2015: A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower, U.S. Department of the Navy/ United States Marine Corps, U.S. Coast Guard

2015: Department of Defense Annual Energy Management Report FY 2014, U.S. Department of Defense

2014: Department of Defense Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan FY2014, U.S. Department of Defense

2014: Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, U.S. Department of Defense

2014: “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change,” CNA Corporation

2014: USCENTCOM, Climate Change Assessment, QDR, U.S. Department of Defense

2014: Quadrennial Defense Review, U.S. Department of Defense

2014: US Navy Arctic Roadmap, U.S. Department of the Navy

2013: DoDM 4715.03, Integrated Natural Resources Management Plan (INRMP) Implementation Manual, Department of Defense

2013: US Coast Guard Arctic Strategy, U.S. Coast Guard

2013: SERDP, Assessing Impacts of Climate Change on Coastal Military Installations: Policy Implications

2013: 2013 Addendum to the FY2012 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap: Department of Defense

2013: Arctic Strategy: Department of Defense

2013: OMB Scorecard on Sustainability/ Energy: Department of Defense

2012: Department of Defense FY 2012 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap: Department of Defense

2012: Department of Defense Strategic Sustainability and Performance Plan FY2012: Department of Defense

2011-2012: Key Strategic Issues List: U.S. Army War College

2011: DoDI 4715.03, Natural Resources Conservation Program: Department of Defense

2011: Department of Defense Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan FY2011: Department of Defense

2011: Incorporating Sea Level Change Considerations in Civil Works Programs: U.S. Army Corps of Engineers

2011: Defense Science Board Task Force Report: Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security: Department of Defense

2011: The National Military Strategy of the United States of America: Redefining America’s Military Leadership: Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

2011: National Security Implications of Climate Change for U.S. Naval Forces: Naval Studies Board, Division on Engineering and Physical Sciences

2010: Quadrennial Defense Review Report: Department of Defense

2010: The Joint Operating Environment, Ready for Today, Preparing for Tomorrow: United States Joint Forces Command

2010: Climate Change Impacts and AFRICOM: A Briefing Note: Institute for Defense Analyses, Christine Youngblut

2010: Strategic Sustainability and Performance Plan FY2010: Department of Defense

2010: U.S. Navy Climate Change Road Map: Task Force Climate Change, Department of the Navy

2009: DoDI 40170.11, Installation Energy Management: Department of Defense

2009: US Navy Arctic Roadmap: U.S. Department of the Navy

2009: Taking Up the Security Challenge of Climate Change: U.S. Army War College

2009: Climate Change Effects: Issues for International and US National Security: Institute for Defense Analyses, Christine Youngblut

2009: Two Degrees of Separation: Abrupt Climate Change and the Adverse Impact to US National Security: Air Command and Staff College

2008: National Defense Strategy: Department of Defense

2008: The Joint Operating Environment, Trends and Challenges for the Future Joint Force Through 2030United States Joint Forces Command

2007: A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Sea Power: Department of the Navy, the Marine Corps and the Coast Guard

2007: National Security and the Threat of Climate Change: CNA Military Advisory Board

2003: An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security: DoD Office of Net Assessment

2003: Weather Operations in the Transformation Era. John M. Lanicci, Air War College Maxwell Paper No. 29 (Maxwell AFB: Air University Press 2003)

2003: Global Warming Could Have a Chilling Effect on the Military. National Defense University

1990: Global Climate Change Implications for the United States: U.S. Navy War College



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