An ideal goal for the entire world community is “to
work toward a sustainable peace,” or what we can alternatively term “global
stability.” Prior to the end of World War II, maintaining a sustainable peace
(or security) for a nation was synonymous with combating military threats;
this, in turn, was the responsibility of soldiers and their leaders with the
support of their government. Since World War II, and through the Cold War, it
has been recognized that national security requires not only a military
strategy but also national and international multi-faceted strategies as well,
with the latter including political, economic, and psychological components. In
recent years, it has also become evident that security and stability of nations
depends on environmental issues, especially through
linkages via human health, which follows trends in both social behavior and the
natural environment. In periods of relative stability, biological controls over
pests and disease organisms (or pathogens) can function efficiently.
Today, an increasingly unstable climate, the accelerated loss of versatile
species and advent of invasive species, and growing economic and social
inequities challenge the resilience and resistance of natural systems, thus
contributing to the emergence, resurgence, and redistribution of infectious
disease on a global scale. In the past, widespread diseases that affect
multiple continents (pandemics) have often transpired social disruption
and major shifts in human settlements, while in other instances the resurgence
of infectious disease have inspired social and environmental reforms.
An overarching environmental issue now facing the
world is climate change. There is no doubt that global temperatures are rising
over the past several decades, although there is lesser consensus on whether it
an anthropogenic effect. While our understanding of the broad range of factors
influencing climate change is still inadequate to make accurate long-range
projections of the future climate, the trends of these changes such as the
earth’s temperature and the increasing presence of greenhouse gases, aerosols,
and hydrocarbons in the atmosphere are clear. What is
far less understood are the possible impacts of climate change on economic
well-being and human health and concomitant impacts on the security of nations;
this is the theme of this NATO workshop. A report
issued in 2007 by the Military Advisory Board of the nonprofit Center for Naval
Analyses (CNA) on national security risks of climate change concluded that
global warming is a "threat multiplier" in many already fragile
regions around the world. Such destabilization and an increased need for
humanitarian relief will, in the future, expand the military's burden it argued
(CNA 2007). The Board identified
four areas of primary concern: food, fresh water, land, and health. Reduced
access to freshwater, impaired food production, health catastrophes, and land
loss and flooding leading to displacement of major populations promote
escalation of conflicts over resources, drive mass migrations between nations,
and raise the potential for failure of states and fuel the growth of terrorism.
The conclusion of the CNA study as well as other
follow up studies (EU 2008) have led to the encouragement of Dr. Vincenzo Costigliola, Chief
medical Officer, NATO, for us to convene a workshop cutting across climate
change, human health and national security.
Given that the topic is novel,
challenging and highly multidisciplinary, we have
contacted many foremost researchers and policymakers to obtain input and
managed to assemble a diverse group of participants covering a spectrum of NATO
countries. Other participants will be accommodated according to availability of
The recent report of the High Representative and
European Commission on “Climate Change and International Security” (EU 2008)
also points out the recognition of European Security Strategy the existence of
a link between global warming and competition for natural resources, and then
details the unique ability of the European community to respond to the security
risks associated with climate change. In a June 2008 speech addressing the
future of NATO, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer called for NATO to prepare for a period of global
insecurity caused by climate change.
In the USA, a meeting was recently convened by the Center for Environment
and National Security at Scripps Oceanographic Institute during June 21-22,
2010, entitled “Climate and National Security: Securing Better Forecasts” to explore
climate change implications for United States national security, foreign policy
and development interests. The participants discussed regional impacts of
climate, particularly in regions of exacerbated response, reviewed the state of
climate forecasting and examined the national security implications of climate
impacts. The present conference will expand discussions to more global scales,
with emphasis on conflicts that may arise due to behavioral and health
implications of climate change.
Certain aspects of climate change already in evidence
may result in a degradation of human health. According to a recent report of
the United Nations' World Health Organization, since 1976, thirty diseases have
emerged that are new to medicine. The appearance of new diseases (such as
exacerbated by HIV/AIDS) or old
diseases that once thought of as under control (childhood diphtheria, whooping cough, and measles)
are of great concern. Malaria, dengue, yellow fever, cholera,
and a number of rodent-borne viruses
are also appearing with increased frequency. Their emergence and transmission
may reflect both environmental and social change, and underlying causations
need to be looked at carefully.
Other ecological changes are also afoot. The U.S.
Global Change Research Program (2000), for example, has reported a ripple
effect linking warming in the Arctic region to reduced fish stocks. The warming
trend in the Arctic has caused decreased sea ice, which has reduced the
available habitat for young seals and sea lions. With the decreased seal and
sea lion populations, their natural predators, the orca, have turned to sea
otters to supplement their diets. Since sea otters feed on sea urchins, the sea
urchin population has exploded, decimating kelp forests (the sea urchin’s food
supply). The decline in kelp forests eliminated fish breeding grounds, and thus
fish populations have declined. It is not unforeseeable that fewer fish means
less food available to human populations who depend on fish as the protein
complement to their diets.
The question of the possible effect of climate change
on national security is now receiving attention in national government circles.
For example, The German Advisory Council on Global Change (2008) addressed the
concern that climate change worsens existing environmental crises such as
drought, water scarcity and soil degradation. The exacerbated crises are
leading to intensification of land-use conflicts and increasing environmentally
induced migrations. Some examples cited include: (i)
rising temperatures increase the vulnerability of populations to poverty and
social deprivation and thus to mounting social and international instability;
(ii) rising sea levels and more frequent storm and flood disasters threaten the
coastal cities and industrial regions of China, India and the U.S., thus
inducing mass migrations; and (iii) increasing glacier melt decreases the fresh
water supply for the Andean and Himalayan regions leading to resource conflicts
and possible mass migrations.
Figure 1. The
interrelationships between climate change, human health, and national
security. The goal of this workshop is to identify the intersecting
relationships between the three major topics as indicated by the blank areas
of the diagram.
This workshop addresses issues related to climate
change, human health and national security as well their issues at the
intersections, as shown in Figure 1. The organizers have requested workshop support
from the NATO because of its stated mission of promoting stability and
well-being in the North Atlantic area by uniting efforts for collective defense
and for the preservation of peace and security. As Mr. Jean-Francois Bureau
stated in his address to the NATO Security Science Forum on Environmental
Security in March 2008, “environment and security are common goods which will
decisively shape our citizens’ living conditions, especially those of the
future generation. As they relate to human security, they are of major
importance for NATO nations, which share the values of human rights, rule of
law and democracy.” We note that the topic is of far reaching nature, beyond
the realm of NATO, and hence we encourage representatives from non-NATO
countries to participate in the workshop.
While climate change is considered a driver of human
health and military-terrorism issues, it must be recognized that there is a
possible feedback loop as well in which human health and military issues affect
climate change. To be effective, we believe the workshop should be highly
focused on selected issues. Therefore, the workshop covers presentations at the
intersection of at least two elements of the Venn diagram shown in Figure 1,
preferably all three. The latter may include how climate change impacts human
health and in turn how changes in human health impact matters of national
security (e.g., inter- and intra-national disagreements and the ubiquitous
presence of terrorism). The goal is to gather experts from crosscutting areas
and develop a set of broad recommendations that can be adopted in developing
strategy for mitigating adverse health and security outcomes of climate change.
Participation for the conference is by invitation
only. We envision the workshop as including four keynote lectures and a summary
lecture. The lectures should include an overview of the current state of
understanding of climate change and security and the current needs of policy
makers, the state of the science of climate change, the relationship between climate
change and human health, the relationship between human health and national
security, and a capstone lecture on integrating the results of the workshop
with the needs of policy makers.
The CNA Corporation, Military Advisory Board. 2007.
National Security and the Threat of Climate Change. The report can be
downloaded at http://SecurityAndClimate.cna.org (link last accessed 03 July 2008).
European Union. 2008. Climate Change and International Security:
Paper from the High Representative and the European Commission to the European
Council. S113/08, 14 March 2008. 11 pp.
The German Advisory Council on
Global Change (WBGU). 2008.
Climate Change as a Security Risk. The report can be downloaded from http://www.wbgu.de/wbgu_jg2007_engl.html (link last accessed 03 July 2008).
Scheffer, Jaap de Hoop. 2008. NATO:
The Next Decade, a speech at the Security Defense Agenda, Brussels, 3 June
US Global Change Research Program. National Assessment Synthesis
Team. 2000. Climate Change Impacts on the United States: The Potential
Consequences of Climate Variability and Change. Overview: Alaska. The
report can be downloaded at http://www.usgcrp.gov/usgcrp/Library/nationalassessment/11AK.pdf (link last accessed 03 July 2008