Security:

CNA Corp.'s Military Advisory Board calls climate change a 'catalyst for conflict'

Seven years after first exploring the security implications of climate change, CNA Corp.'s Military Advisory Board has released an update to its original analysis. The new report highlights specific vulnerabilities and identifies climate change as a "catalyst for conflict." During today's OnPoint, Sherri Goodman, senior vice president and general counsel at CNA and a former deputy under the secretary of Defense for environmental security, discusses new and emerging international and domestic threats resulting from climate change.

Transcript

Monica Trauzzi: Hello and welcome to OnPoint. I'm Monica Trauzzi. With me today is Sherri Goodman, senior vice president and general counsel at CNA Corporation. Sherry is a former deputy undersecretary of Defense for environmental security. Sherri, thank you so much for joining me.

Sherri Goodman: Thank you, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: Sherri, seven years after exploring the security implications of climate change, CNA's Military Advisory Board has released an update to that original report. This new report is highlighting specific vulnerabilities and identifies climate change as a catalyst for conflict. Why did you feel an update was necessary right now?

Sherri Goodman: Well, Monica, we decided to update our original report because we see the risks of climate change accelerating. We see it all around us. It's happening today, not in the future, and we felt it was time to issue this clarion call to identify climate change not only as a threat multiplier as we did in the original report, but as a catalyst for conflict. And it's happening in America and around the globe today.

Monica Trauzzi: So what types of conflict does the advisory board believe could result from climate change, and what are the new emerging threats that you've seen since that original report in 2007?

Sherri Goodman: Well, we see increased instability around the planet, you know, from the Arab Spring where some of that instability was fed by food insecurity, which in turn was produced by drought in Russia. That reduced the food crop there, and therefore the riots over food in Egypt and in Tunisia and elsewhere in the Arab world. So we're seeing this in places where our strategic interests are located. We're also seeing the horrific typhoons, for example, that occurred in the Philippines, in our own country Superstorm Sandy. Some of these natural disasters may have been fueled by climate change. And so we're seeing more and more demand to provide both humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

Monica Trauzzi: Are there specific regions and countries that are at the greatest risk?

Sherri Goodman: Well, no country is exempt from climate change, but the coastal areas and low-lying areas are indeed very much at risk. In our own country our own East Coast, low-lying -- we see the sea level rise. Certainly low-lying areas in Asia and in the Pacific are at deep risk. And so we're seeing now not only small island nations begin to disappear but our own Arctic is changing at a very rapid pace, much more rapidly than in fact was predicted even just five years ago.

Monica Trauzzi: So how should the international community be adapting and addressing these security implications?

Sherri Goodman: Well, we need all now to build climate risk into everything that we do. Just today we see Lloyd's of London, a major insurer, is calling for climate risk being included in its -- all of its insurance planning, and that it's noted that its insurance payouts have almost doubled or even tripled in the last couple years because of an increase in disaster response payouts that they've had to make. And we're seeing this around the globe, so -- and we're seeing it at home now, too: increased wildfires, increased drought, changing weather patterns, more disruptive events.

Monica Trauzzi: Is it difficult to convince certain governments to act on climate and specifically the risks that you're addressing in this report because of the instability that exists in certain areas?

Sherri Goodman: Well, sometimes it's a challenge, but sometimes that increased risk makes people more likely to want to respond to it. At other times we need to realize we need to sort of make the awareness that change is coming whether we like it or not. And it's better to build that resilience and sustainability into our energy infrastructure, our water infrastructure, our human and building infrastructure -- it's better to build that in now than to have to pay for it later in lives lost.

Monica Trauzzi: And the report highlights some very interesting things that are happening here at home in the U.S. What have you identified as the climate impacts to the U.S. military, infrastructure and the economy? What are the greatest risks?

Sherri Goodman: Well, to our military what we see is an increased demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. We also see our military have to operate in harsher operating environments, whether it's higher temperatures, more low-lying areas, more stress on both our people and equipment, more risk of having to put our people in harm's way in part due to deadly diseases and increase of vector-borne diseases. So that is indeed troubling. We know our military serves in harm's way regardless, but we don't need to add to the risk that they already undertake.

In addition we see our energy infrastructure at risk. Sometimes in the summer now we haven't been able to fully cool our nuclear power plants because the water temperature's been too high, whether it's been in Long Island Sound or in Texas in the last few years. Power plants have had to shut down for temporary periods. And that could extend over many times now.

Monica Trauzzi: What stood out to you the most in all of these findings? You've been involved in this space for quite a long time. What stood out to you?

Sherri Goodman: Well, what really stands out is the increased number of extreme weather events that we're facing around the globe and even in our own country, combined with the changing Arctic. Those are two things that really hit home. They hit us, you know, where we live. The Arctic is changing so rapidly. Permafrost is melting, changing the way of life for the indigenous population, also making human activity up there much more possible and therefore of much greater risk as there could be accidents. And there could potentially be conflict as more nations want to get access to the energy, fishing, and mineral resources available in the Arctic.

Monica Trauzzi: All right, we're going to end it there. Thank you for coming on the show.

Sherri Goodman: Thank you. Thank you, Monica.

Monica Trauzzi: And thanks for watching. We'll see you back here tomorrow.

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