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Climate Change and Increased National Security Risks

October 29, 2021

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What's happening?

A new National Intelligence Estimate has anticipated increased national security risks caused by global warming for the United States through 2040.

The report names 11 highly vulnerable countries of concern for US interests, including Afghanistan, India, Pakistan, Myanmar, Iraq, North Korea, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Nicaragua, and Columbia. 

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Beyond these states, the Arctic is also considered vulnerable to conflict. Reduced ice coverage means that the region will become more accessible to both Arctic and non-Arctic nations.

According to the report, “climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to US national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about how to respond to the challenge.”

What's the impact?

Key national security impacts fall into three areas:

  • Geopolitical tensions related to climate response. Relations will change as countries disagree over measures like emissions reductions and clean energy. Countries may also compete over clean energy technologies and resources.
  • Geopolitical tensions related to climate change impacts. For example, this could arise from increased human migration or ungoverned geoengineering, which uses technology to counter global warming effects. Reduced Arctic ice coverage is likely to escalate tensions as countries pursue new trade routes and natural resources there.
  • Country-level instability. Climate change will have a greater impact on a nation’s critical resource systems like food and energy, which can cause social instability, initiating conflict and humanitarian crises.

Human migration will likely have a significant impact on national security. Natural disasters already force 21.5M people to relocate every year globally. This will only increase as climate-related threats, like wildfires, flooding, hurricanes, and drought, intensify. Cybercriminal attacks centered around these events will also impact critical infrastructure and sensitive data.

What can you do?

Governments must quickly and accurately assess national security risks over the next two decades as the geopolitical fallout of climate change escalates. Online social data is becoming more relevant for gathering accurate, timely information so governments can stay more informed and prepared. 

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As populations publicly document ground-truth information online, open-source data can help intelligence teams assess:

  • Where natural disasters are occurring and what the on-the-ground situation is.
  • Patterns and volumes of migrants affected by climate change.
  • Foreign movements and involvement in high-risk areas like the Arctic.
  • How the political and social landscape is evolving in areas of interest, like Afghanistan.

Specialized OSINT software can help intelligence teams gather this information easily and access data on low-profile sources relevant for specific countries and regions. 

Connect with us to learn more about OSINT software and how it can support intelligence cycles in response to climate change and national security.