Strategies of major armies to confront climate chang

The twenty-first century is one of the most important periods of change‭, ‬during which the pace of climate change intensifies‭, ‬which called for the best armies in the world to face the future challenge of climate change and form a concept of the war by developing military strategies to confront these changes‭, ‬and anticipating their impact on their armed forces‭.‬

In light of this‭, ‬climate change has become a slow-moving version of the‭ ‬“Covid 19”‭ ‬epidemic‭, ‬which is what the great armies take into consideration in the future‭, ‬and it will be addressed in the following axes‭ ‬of this study‭:‬

Most estimates suggest that violent and armed conflicts will increase in the twenty-first century‭, ‬and that many of these conflicts will arise as a result of several factors‭, ‬most notably climate change‭. ‬There are previous studies that indicate that the causes of the outbreak of the so-called‭ ‬“Arab Spring”‭ ‬revolutions‭   ‬were related to climate‭, ‬due to the rise in food prices and so on‭. ‬It is therefore not difficult to see that climate change will exacerbate and fuel social unrest and may develop into violent conflict‭.‬

Therefore‭, ‬climate change has undoubtedly become a multiplier factor for the threat of conflict‭, ‬and in light of the link between armed conflict and climate change‭, ‬statistical data indicated an increase of 10‭ ‬to 20%‭ ‬in terms of the risk of armed conflicts‭ ‬associated with each half-degree increase in local temperatures‭. ‬This is a conservative estimate‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬there is broad consensus by researchers about the impact of climate change on increasing food insecurity‭, ‬water scarcity‭, ‬competition for resources‭, ‬disruption of livelihoods‭, ‬and stimulating migration or so-called‭ ‬“environmental refugees”‭, ‬all of which can play a major role in the formation of bloody conflicts‭.‬

There are already studies that have demonstrated that climate has affected between 3%‭ ‬and 20%‭ ‬of the risks of armed conflict over the past century and that the impact is likely to increase significantly in the twenty-first century‭. ‬According to environmentalists‭, ‬estimating the role of climate change and its security impacts is important not only to understand the social costs of our continuing emissions of global warming‭, ‬but also to prioritize responses‭, ‬which has prompted major armies to consider the possibility of future conflicts and to make informed decisions about how they should mitigate the severity of climate change on future battlefields‭. ‬Researchers at Princeton University and the University of California at Berkeley found that an average annual‭ ‬temperature increases of 1‭ ‬degree Celsius‭ (‬1.8‭ ‬degrees Fahrenheit‭) ‬led to a 4.5%‭ ‬increase in the Civil War that year‭.‬

Is climate change causing more wars‭? ‬

In light of the escalation of the climate crisis‭, ‬a question arises‭: ‬What will the future battlefield look like‭, ‬given the wars‭ ‬of the twentieth century that took place for land‭, ‬religion and the economy reasons‭, ‬while researchers expect that wars of the twenty-first century will be fought on something completely different‭: ‬climate change‭, ‬and the resulting water and food shortages‭. ‬They concluded that when the conditions for survival of groups of people are threatened‭, ‬the probability of violent conflict remains high‭, ‬and this is a very basic principle‭.‬

Here it should be noted that global warming will not benefit the Middle East in any way‭, ‬as there is ample evidence that the region will be most affected by climate change‭. ‬Experts predict that due to global warming‭, ‬the Tigris and Euphrates rivers will‭ “‬disappear this century‭”, ‬making conflict even more alluring if contested political control returns to the Fertile Crescent‭.‬

With global warming accelerating the pace of conflicts leading to hostilities‭, ‬it is noteworthy that about half of the 25‭ ‬countries most vulnerable to the crisis are also in military conflict‭. ‬In a forward-looking vision towards the future‭, ‬we find that Afghanistan has embodied a new type of international crisis‭, ‬as temperatures have doubled in some areas more than the global average‭, ‬and spring rains have diminished in an alarming way in the most important agricultural region of the country‭. ‬The climate crisis is exacerbating disputes over water‭, ‬forcing residents to leave their homes‭. ‬The drought that hit Afghanistan in 2018‭ ‬forced four million people to rely on food aid‭.‬

The impact of climate change on super power armies

In light of the dangers of climate change on the security of super powers‭, ‬the Russian Security Council‭, ‬in discussing how changes in the Earth’s climate directly affect Russia’s security and its relations with its neighbors‭, ‬concluded that at the domestic level‭, ‬Russia is more vulnerable than most countries‭; ‬given the size of Russia’s permafrost region‭ (‬roughly 66‭ ‬percent of the country’s area‭), ‬the melting now taking place threatens to undermine the foundations of entire cities‭, ‬literally‭. ‬In the words of one expert‭, ‬a quarter of homes built in Tiksi‭, ‬Yakutsk‭, ‬Vorkuta‭, ‬and other population centers will be completely uninhabitable‭.‬

Climate change and its consequences have become a major public concern and political issue in many countries‭. ‬In some countries‭ ‬this also includes national security actors‭, ‬particularly the armed forces in particular‭, ‬in the United States and the United Kingdom‭, ‬climate change policies are a major issue for the military‭.‬

While knowledge of the impact of climate change on the role of armed forces‭, ‬military operations and facilities is scarce‭, ‬in the current decade moves towards planning for a future characterized by climate change have begun‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬some measures have already been taken‭, ‬particularly with regard to mitigation efforts in these two countries‭. ‬In both countries‭, ‬for example‭, ‬specific targets for reducing greenhouse gases have been set for most military activities‭.‬

There are still obvious differences‭. ‬In the United States‭, ‬the Army‭, ‬and specifically the Navy‭, ‬pioneered the adoption of climate change policies‭. ‬Both former and active US Navy commanders were early advocates of taking climate change seriously‭, ‬at a time‭ ‬when official US policy was still skeptical about the reality of climate change‭. ‬The US Navy’s leadership role appears to have more to do with public concerns about the direction of US policy on climate change than with the Navy’s immediate interests‭. ‬However‭, ‬it is also present‭, ‬for example regarding the possibility of needing better protection or even relocation of naval bases‭. ‬Compared to the US Navy‭, ‬the move of other branches of the US armed forces has been delayed‭. ‬Furthermore‭, ‬they have somewhat different priorities‭, ‬with the Air Force and the Army’s primary focus on reducing energy consumption and energy security‭, ‬with greenhouse gas reductions as a welcome side effect‭. ‬In the United Kingdom‭, ‬the relationship between climate change and energy policies is less robust than in the United States‭. ‬Instead‭, ‬the British military has adopted a detailed and specific agenda on climate‭ ‬change‭. ‬It includes‭, ‬in addition to mitigation efforts‭, ‬studies of the future impacts of climate change and a general commitment‭ ‬to improving preparedness to meet these challenges‭.‬

It appears that both the Russian and Chinese militaries have paid little attention to the consequences of climate change for their future activities‭. ‬However‭, ‬there are clear differences again‭. ‬In the Russian case‭, ‬other urgent issues are given much higher‭ ‬priority over the agendas of national security actors‭. ‬The first is the reconstruction‭, ‬modernization and reform of the Russian‭ ‬armed forces‭. ‬Moreover‭, ‬climate change is not a good argument for those pushing for modernization because of so little attention to the consequences of climate change in Russia’s public and political discourse‭. ‬However‭, ‬this differs with respect to the Arctic‭, ‬here there is great interest in Russia‭. ‬For now‭, ‬however‭, ‬cooperative approaches are preferred in Russian Arctic politics‭.‬‭ ‬In contrast to the Russian case‭, ‬in China‭, ‬the military leadership appears to be well aware of the potential impacts of climate‭ ‬change on its role‭, ‬operational demands‭, ‬and facilities‭. ‬However‭, ‬public statements‭, ‬and perhaps even internal discussions‭, ‬are‭ ‬largely limited to tree planting and disaster relief‭. ‬These operations‭, ‬if one can also call them important‭, ‬are important to the Chinese military‭, ‬but what is most decisive in the Chinese debate are the limits set by the political leadership‭. ‬A more active stance of the Chinese military on climate change issues would undermine the official Chinese position‭, ‬which is that climate‭ ‬change is a development issue‭, ‬not a security issue‭. ‬While adaptation strategies and operations of armed forces are still in the‭ ‬study phase‭, ‬even in the US and UK‭, ‬analysis of the threat of climate change to facilities‭, ‬particularly sea-level rise‭, ‬is more urgent‭. ‬The United States and the United Kingdom‭, ‬and possibly China as well‭, ‬are investigating this issue in detail‭.‬

The future strategies of the best armies in the world

At the beginning of the new decade‭, ‬major armies began to attach great importance to the effects of climate change on their armed forces‭, ‬as the climate change crisis was no longer a problem for future defense leaders‭, ‬but an immediate challenge‭. ‬Now‭, ‬after years of avoiding the issue‭, ‬the Biden administration requested 617‭ ‬million dollars in fiscal year 2022‭ ‬to prepare for‭, ‬adapt‭ ‬and mitigate climate change‭.‬

In addition‭, ‬Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin‭, ‬having already identified climate change as a top priority‭, ‬launched the Climate Working Group in response to an executive order in January signed by President Joe Biden‭. ‬The strategy the US military is writing‭ ‬reveals a‭ “‬highly detailed‭” ‬action plan on climate change that outlines a multi-year effort on how the military will address climate issues‭. ‬For its part‭, ‬the Air Force‭, ‬which is itself a major contributor to climate change‭, ‬is looking for new ways to improve the combat capability of its fleet while reducing greenhouse gas emissions‭. ‬The Army also studies energy supply and storage‭ ‬technologies‭, ‬system-wide energy distribution powered by AI‭, ‬the use of renewable energy sources for use in operational contexts‭, ‬including forward and tactical operating bases‭, ‬and the use of alternative fuel sources that increase operational endurance within the force while reducing carbon emissions‭. ‬On top of that‭, ‬the US military needs to generate battlefield power in challenging environments‭. ‬The Army Corps of Engineers is also contributing to the department’s effort‭, ‬having designed the Department of‭ ‬Defense Climate Assessment Tool‭, ‬which predicts the effects of climate change at nearly 1,400‭ ‬Department of Defense sites‭. ‬In addition‭, ‬unique approaches are being sought to develop building materials to reduce greenhouse gas emissions‭. ‬As for the British‭ ‬Army’s military strategy to tackle climate change‭, ‬in 2021‭ ‬and beyond‭, ‬the UK government decided to make tackling climate change‭ ‬its first international priority‭. ‬In the defense context‭, ‬it will take the lead in responding to emerging and conflict-related‭ ‬geopolitical threats exacerbated by climate change‭, ‬as future environments require their armed forces to anticipate change in temperature extremes‭, ‬increased flooding‭, ‬and new‭, ‬unfamiliar causes of conflict‭, ‬i.e‭., ‬the way in which that climate change will‭ ‬ultimately alter our world is complex and difficult to predict‭. ‬In the first phase of the UK Army’s Military Strategy‭, ‬the basics have been laid‭ (‬2021-2025‭) ‬where the Ministry of Defense will introduce a change step in projects already planned‭. ‬The first phase will include working with suppliers to identify ways to reduce emissions of the equipment being used in the supply chain‭. ‬A‭ ‬comprehensive database and baseline will be built to allow detailed plan decisions for all topics in the second and third phases‭, ‬and broader sustainability will be pursued through annual defense plans‭. ‬The second phase of Reducing and Adapting to the Future‭ (‬2026-2035‭) ‬will build on the successes of the first phase‭, ‬in the following years‭, ‬and the defense will look to significantly reduce emissions using current and emerging technology‭, ‬and maximize opportunities to enhance the global response to the threat that climate change imposes on current and future operational capability and building more flexibility in real estate‭, ‬supply‭ ‬chain and future equipment‭.‬

The third phase‭, ‬Harnessing the Future‭ (‬2036-2050‭), ‬which will take place in the last fifteen years and in which the Ministry of‭ ‬Defense must do everything in its power to harness new technologies that increase flexibility and reduce emissions‭. ‬The 3rd‭. ‬phase will depend on efficiency‭, ‬operational effectiveness‭, ‬on innovation and foresight in previous phases in light of sustainable‭ ‬culture and behaviour‭. ‬

As for the position of the Chinese army on the climate change crisis‭, ‬there are some reports of an alternative to the use of fuel by the Chinese army‭, ‬but it is not clear how intense or successful these efforts are‭. ‬Military study groups also appear to be‭ ‬looking at the potential consequences of climate change for naval bases‭. ‬In light of this‭, ‬the Chinese military is still under pressure to improve energy efficiency to reduce greenhouse gas emissions‭.‬


Unsurprisingly‭, ‬the United States‭, ‬Russia‭, ‬and China rank as the world’s most powerful militaries‭, ‬respectively‭, ‬in that order‭. ‬In addition to the military might of these three countries‭, ‬they also represent some of the countries with the highest greenhouse gas emissions‭. ‬Therefore‭, ‬as these countries suffer adverse effects from greenhouse gases‭, ‬threats and their political perceptions will shape how they decide to act militarily‭.  ‬The militaries of the United States‭, ‬Russia and China will each face unique‭ ‬challenges due to climate change‭, ‬and thus will require unique responses in order to adapt‭. ‬Besides influencing how military strategy is planned‭, ‬there is also a debate among military strategists about how climate change will lead to an increase in armed conflict worldwide‭.

‮»‬‭ ‬By‭: ‬Dr‭. ‬Rania Fawzy‭  (‬Israeli affairs researcher‭)‬

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