Red Cross International Joins Groups Calling Climate Change a "National Security" Concern

Red Cross International Joins Groups Calling Climate Change a "National Security" Concern

The Red Cross warns the threat of climate change to global stability and safety must not be taken lightly. A new report by the International Federation of the Red Cross (IFRC) finds that 83% of all disasters in the last decade were climate-related events, affecting 1.7 billion people and killing 410,000.

Based on the report, the humanitarian organization providing emergency assistance and disaster relief "is calling for global leaders to take action [on climate change] by ensuring that money is there to invest in disaster risk reduction, early warning systems, and community resilience."

IFRC & EM-DAT: Disasters by Continent Since 2010

Why This Matters

Climate change is a "threat multiplier." It can complicate existing conflict for societies, governing systems, and political leaders. In addition to national and global security risks, climate change presents the risks of food, water, and medical security -- and the potential for widespread humanitarian crises.

Mounting pressure on global leaders to take swift climate action is critical, and the IFRC is yet another persuasive voice. People are already experiencing drought, famine, and forced migration due to natural disasters, according to Secretary General of the IFRC Jagan Chapagain.

Bloomberg: Viewing Climate Change as a Threat Multiplier for Instability, September 20, 2019.

Looming Humanitarian Crises

The World Bank reported in September 2021 that climate change could displace 216 million people by 2050. The report included several "hotspots," including Sub-Saharan Africa, East Asia, the Pacific, and South Asia, which would account for a combined 175 million of the displaced population.

The Institute for Economics and Peace has advised cities to prepare for the influx of migrants as refugees flee rural areas. Yet, many of the cities refugees turn to are also vulnerable to climate change. For example, Miami, already an international hub for migration, is threatened by rising sea levels that could displace 800,000 people.

For concerning regions like the Middle East that are already unstable, climate change presents another point of geopolitical conflict. Extreme heat is worsening drought conditions and could lead to increased desertification of the Middle East, warns a paper published by the European Union Institute for Security Studies.

As John Kerry wrote in Front Lines in 2020, "It is not a coincidence that immediately prior to the civil war in Syria (from 2006-2011), the country experienced the worst drought on record." The country's civil war began, in part, with the Assad regime's brutal reaction to Syrians impacted by drought. In Afghanistan, this drought has led to widespread starvation and malnutrition.

Amanpour and Company (PBS): The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, May 24, 2021.

National Geographic: Global Water Wars (Full Episode) | Parched, July 29, 2021.

US Security Responses

In October 2021, the US Department of Defense (DoD), released a report confirming "existing risks and security challenges in the US are being made worse due to "increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change." It came in response to another report released by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that predicted mounting tensions between countries over carbon emissions and rising temperatures.

Last December, Russia refused to sign on to a UN Security Council resolution proposing to treat climate change as a risk to international peace and security. Historically, Russia's gas exports have held major geopolitical sway in the EU, Front Lines reported.

As for the US, Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel writes, "climate change is threatening our economy, the environment, and our national security." He also warns that its effects would impact military infrastructure, disaster response, and the economy. US Major General Paul D Eaton echoes that in his Front Lines article titled "National Security and Combating the Climate Crisis Go Hand in Hand."

WW0: General Stan McCrystal and John Kerry Instagram Live conversation on national security and the climate crisis, October 27, 2020.

WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis, September 9, 2020.