Climate change a “national security challenge” that COP21 must address, says former US Secretary of Defense

Ilario D'Amato
Reading time: 5 minutes
2 December 2015

PARIS: Climate change is “another national security challenge” and the climate agreement in Paris must address this threat, says Chuck Hagel, former US Secretary of Defense, in an interview with Time today.

When he was sitting in the Senate almost 20 years ago, Chuck Hagel drafted a resolution calling the US to support international agreements on reducing greenhouse gas emissions, with the condition that every country should commit to this challenge and that the US economy wouldn’t be seriously harmed.

“Today, I believe that a Paris agreement could meet these conditions, laying out a path that is more realistic, effective and economically sound, and that would help catalyze a new global energy economy,” says Chuck Hagel. The interview was published during COP21, where political leaders are aiming to bend the curve of global emissions and spur a secure low carbon economy.

The former US Secretary of Defense is also one of the signatories of a bipartisan statement from Democrats and Republicans, calling to assess and tackle the risk climate change poses for the US Army.

In 2013, the Department of Defense announced a roadmap to adapt to climate change, calling all countries to overcome their national boundaries and come together to tackle an issue that is intrinsically global.

Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret.), CEO of the American Security Project, relayed a similar message to Chuck Hagel in an exclusive Climate TV interview for The Climate Group. “Climate change is national and global security threat we must be prepared for. Climate change in itself is not causing conflicts, but is an accelerant of instability – and we have seen this all over the world.”

Brigadier Cheney links climate change to the recent increase in terrorist activity. For example, droughts in the Middle East have further aggravated the situation with ISIS, which is “offering those youth that are unemployed, that don’t have the way to take care of their families or have anything to do, they offer money and a little bit of stability. When the same applies in providing water, food or services, when it’s not there, they can clearly take advantage of those deficiencies.”

The same issue was underscored by former Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO General Wesley Clark, who in a BBC World interview talked about the need to shape the political agenda with this topic.

General Clark stressed the distinct social and economic effects of climate: “First of all, the consequences of climate change are now becoming increasingly clear: there are droughts, there are floods, and there are other events which have economic consequences – and the economic consequences will be severe enough over time to destabilize governments.

“Migration is affected, so agricultural efforts are changed: food production is hampered, someone has just to look at what happened to 600,000 small farmers in Syria as a result of prolonged drought.”

Last September, opening Climate Week NYCUS Secretary of State John Kerry also underscored the global security concerns that directly threatens the world’s nations, especially the US and China. In fact, the two most economically advanced countries have the potential to share gains of almost half a trillion dollars a year, if they’re able to open up trade and investment significantly. However, he argued, climate change directly threatens this compelling bilateral growth.


By Ilario D'Amato 


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