to climate effects, however, and many have a lower capability to adapt. Possible effects in these areas include drought, flood, mass migrations, conflict, and humanitarian disasters. The confluence of these factors will most likely present challenges for the United States and its allies. According to the National Intelligence Council (NIC), migrants fleeing natural disasters in North Africa, for example, may move in large numbers into NATO countries in southern Europe.2 Such mass migrations are likely to challenge the physical and social infrastructure in countries of origin and in recipient countries. While migration may or may not be seen as a security challenge, contending with such events is likely to place demands on the military and maritime resources of partner nations, as it has at times in the past.3

Taking natural and human-made vulnerability into account, the committee found that there were several global hot spots of particular concern to the United States and its allies. The “hot spot” concept has been cited by both the World Bank, in its development report, and the NIC and is expanded upon in this chapter.


Given the judgment that climate change will result in a range of effects for all nations, U.S. military forces, particularly naval forces, are likely to contend with climate-related contingencies around the world, as described in Chapter 2. This is both a reflection of U.S. global economic and security interests and the fact that U.S. maritime forces are forward-deployed around the world and likely to be “first responders” in contingencies requiring a U.S. response. The pervasive nature of these challenges has important implications for U.S. relations with allied and partner maritime forces.

First, climate change will affect U.S. allies in varying ways domestically and regionally. While these challenges are unlikely to trigger any treaty obligations (under NATO, ANZUS [the Australia, New Zealand, United States Security Treaty], or the U.S.-Japan Security Treaty, for example), it is very likely that allies may request U.S. assistance, particularly in dealing with humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, and mass migration. Traditionally, the posture of the United States has been to assist allies to the greatest extent possible.

Second, given the historical record of U.S. military support for global humanitarian and disaster relief operations, the President of the United States is likely to continue directing U.S. maritime forces to respond to climate change contingencies in hot spots around the globe. The capabilities and willingness of allies and partners to participate in these responses will be critical because the


See National Intelligence Council, 2008, 2025 Global Trends Report, November, p. 53; available at _Trends_Final_Report.pdf. Accessed May 25, 2010.


Examples include Operation Sea Signal in 1994 and Operations Safe Harbor and Able Manner in 1991-1992.

The National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine
500 Fifth St. N.W. | Washington, D.C. 20001

Copyright © National Academy of Sciences. All rights reserved.
Terms of Use and Privacy Statement