IntelBrief: The Devastating Impact of Climate Change
August 15, 2019
Bottom Line Up Front
• On August 8, the United Nations released a new report that details accelerating climate change and its negative impact on global food supplies.
• A major second-order effect of climate change is an increase in migration, as individuals seek to relocate in hopes of escaping poverty, disease, and malnutrition resulting from a changing ecosystem.
• Climate change has intensified already brutal civil wars, as a competition for scarce resources becomes fiercer.
• The U.S. Defense Department and various elements of the intelligence community have explicitly acknowledged the national security-related challenges of climate change, but the lack of political will is hampering more comprehensive efforts to make progress.
As fires burn in the Arctic region and glacial ice melts at an accelerating pace in Greenland, the impact of rapid climate change is undeniable. Despite ominous warnings from scientists, countries are continuing to emit massive amounts of carbon dioxide through power generation and transportation. Global greenhouse gas emissions rose by 2% in 2018, according to an annual report by BP, a British multinational oil and gas company. In the United States, President Trump has called climate change a ‘hoax’ and pulled out of the 2015 Paris Agreement while pushing for more widespread use of fossil fuels, including coal. China has made strides toward relying on fewer carbon-emitting sources of power, but due to its size, remains the world’s largest carbon emitter; the U.S. is the global leader in carbon emissions on a per capita basis.
According to the World Meteorological Organization, July 2019 was the hottest month ever recorded. All-time high records were shattered in France, Germany, and across northern Europe during a severe heatwave this summer. In Central America, an enduring drought has contributed to widespread hunger due to crop shortages. A major second-order effect of climate change is an increase in migration, as individuals seek to relocate in hopes of escaping poverty, disease, and malnutrition resulting from a changing ecosystem. The rise in global temperatures comes as more of the world’s population is living in urban environments that are exceedingly vulnerable to disruptions in energy, food, and water as well as extreme weather-related natural disasters like flooding. Climate change is expected to have cascading effects that will further disrupt all aspects of modern society.
On August 08, the United Nations released a report detailing the threats to global food supplies posed by climate change. The peer-reviewed report by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) noted that the world’s food and water resources are being depleted at ‘unprecedented rates,’ challenging the ability to replenish future supplies. As global temperatures rise, rainfall in some pockets of the world has become more intense, while other areas suffer from extreme drought. The IPCC report, a collaboration of more than 100 scientists from over 50 countries, concludes that more than 500 million people already live in areas that are either a desert or becoming similar to deserts. Other challenges exacerbating crop production and food shortages include soil degradation, erosion, and rising sea levels.
It is impossible to overstate the security challenges posed by accelerated climate change. Over the past several years, the European Union (EU) has been overwhelmed by migrants arriving from the Middle East, South Asia, and Sub-Saharan Africa desperate to escape conflict, oppression, and poverty. Climate change has intensified already brutal civil wars, as a competition for scarce resources becomes fiercer. As entire populations respond to the consequences of state failure, even greater numbers of refugees are expected to flee their homelands. The U.S. Defense Department and various elements of the intelligence community have explicitly acknowledged the national security-related challenges of climate change, but the lack of political will is hampering more comprehensive efforts to make progress.
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