Climate Change Poses Critical Risks for National Security

Climate Change Poses Critical Risks for National Security

The Pew Charitable Trusts, Military Officers Association of America and CNA Host National Security, Energy and Climate Forum

Today, Carol Browner, director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change Policy and Kathleen Hicks, deputy undersecretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Forces joined leading military and defense experts to discuss the critical links between climate change, energy and national security.  The Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate, the Military Officers Association of America and CNA hosted the National Security, Energy and Climate Forum: Challenges and Solutions for the Future.  During the event, panelists discussed how climate change and our energy posture threaten the country's national security and ways the U.S. military is preparing to meet these challenges.

“I spent 30 years in the U.S. Senate working on behalf of our men and women in uniform serving our country and on the issues related to the impact of climate changes on their future military roles and missions," said Senator John Warner.  “Leading military and security experts agree that global warming could increase instability and lead to conflict in already fragile regions of the world.  We ignore these facts at the peril of our national security and at great risk to those in uniform who serve this nation.”

“The Armed Services realize that America's growing dependence on oil isn't just expensive, it can be dangerous,” said VADM Dennis V. McGinn USN (Ret.), Member, CNA Military Advisory Board.  “That is why the Department of Defense has taken on the leadership challenge to reduce energy use across the board in order to increase mission effectiveness and save millions of dollars.”

Today, the Department of Defense (DoD) is helping develop alternative fuel and power sources and in 2008, procured or produced the equivalent of almost 10 percent of its electricity from renewable energy sources. For example, Nellis Air Force Base has commissioned a 14.2 megawatt solar power array - which was the largest in the Americas. On the efficiency front, DoD has reduced its energy use by more than 10 percent since 2003 and aims to improve energy efficiency some 30 percent by 2015.

“Climate change is one of a number of trends DoD is looking at as part of the strategic context for this Quadrennial Defense Review,” said Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Forces.   “Climate change can have critical implications for U.S. national security and for the role and use of U.S. military forces, including by serving as a threat multiplier, exacerbating tensions and potentially leading to migration or conflict within or between states over scarce resources.  At the same time, climate change also provides opportunities for the United States and U.S. armed forces to enhance their cooperation with regional and international organizations.”

Numerous expert reports have documented the security challenges that global climate change could worsen.   The Central Intelligence Agency's long-term forecasting arm, the National Intelligence Council, recently reported that global warming could directly impact the U.S. by threatening energy supplies, damaging military bases, increasing food and water shortages and stressing the economy. In Congressional testimony earlier this year, director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair said “the Intelligence Community judges global climate change will have important and extensive implications for U.S. national security interests over the next 20 years.” 

“The Department of Defense is leading the way in becoming more efficient and effective in their use of energy and working to reduce their carbon boot print,” said Phyllis Cuttino, director, Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate of The Pew Charitable Trusts.

CNA is a non-profit research organization that operates the Center for Naval Analyses and the Institute for Public Research. Through innovative analysis, CNA provides public sector organizations with the tools to tackle complex problems. For more information, visit

MOAA is the nation's largest and most influential association of military officers. It is an independent, nonprofit, politically nonpartisan organization. For more information, visit