The Mounting Threats of Climate Change

Once considered a back-burner domestic policy issue, the environment—particularly the urgent need to curb climate change—has emerged as a pressing foreign policy and national security challenge. Extreme droughts, heat waves, floods, and other natural disasters have triggered humanitarian crises and mass migrations, exacerbating poverty, accelerating conflict, and wreaking havoc from the Middle East and Africa to Asia, the Amazon, and the Arctic.

The need to address climate change internationally tops President Obama’s foreign-policy agenda and is a key pillar of U.S. defense strategy, which flags climate change as a “threat multiplier” that will “aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” More extreme weather—a symptom of a warming world—is driving food and water shortages and is increasing competition for natural resources, displacement of people, surges in pandemic disease outbreaks, and damage to homes and infrastructure. The 2015 Quadrennial Diplomacy and Development Review (QDDR), which offers a blueprint for U.S. foreign policy and development aid, ranks curbing climate change as a top strategic priority.

This article was originally published in Democracy Journal.