Climate Change and U.S. National Security

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Climate Change and U.S. National Security

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In October of 2014 the U.S. Department of Defense published an “Adaptation Roadmap” for climate change that started with: “Climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.” Then Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel was quoted saying: “Climate change does not directly cause conflict, but it can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. Food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, more severe natural disasters – all place additional burdens on economies, societies, and institutions around the world.” This chapter will detail what those challenges and burdens are, with emphases on national security implications and consequences for U.S. Army personnel in particular. But it cannot and should not be narrowly focused, because this is a global problem with global consequences that affect the entire U.S. military. It affects alliances, flashpoints, basing issues, geopolitics and budgets in complex ways we will try to exemplify with specific cases, like Syria and South Asia. Propaganda can influence assessments in any war zone. So that is not new, but it is an especially pernicious problem with climate change. , , , , For example, at Minnesota’s leading public policy institute we have been talking about, and some studying, climate change since at least 1982. It took 31 years before Andy Marshall commissioned the first publically known, Pentagon study of national security implications of climate change in 2003. Yet this author was told personally at the National Intelligence University in 2005 that officers there had been “ordered not to talk about that subject.” This was all because of a sustained campaign by legacy industries to suppress discussion of something profound that they already knew was guaranteed to occur.


This is a detailed review of national security implications of climate change, with extensive references to other expert sources. It was written for US Army career professionals, but has many strong connections to Air Force and Navy dilemmas exposed by this global phenomenon. Perhaps most significantly, this chapter places the entire security paradigm as a global problem requiring global solutions, almost none of which involve killing enemies since you cannot 'kill' climate change, global warming, or their many distributed consequences.

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This chapter will be published in May, 2020, as part of a new, two-volume textbook for mid-career professionals at the US Army Command and General Staff College. That will be available Pentagon-wide, but not probably to the general public. Climate change is such an important topic today, and the US military is so far behind on this due to denial from various administrations, that I archive this chapter here, now, so that others can use it if they wish.

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Andregg, Michael M.. (2020). Climate Change and U.S. National Security. Retrieved from the University Digital Conservancy,

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