The intelligence community presumably already uses an analogous process to consider the ability of foreign governments and societies to withstand various kinds of social and political stresses. This recommendation calls on the community to incorporate climate risks and the associated exposures and vulnerabilities into such exercises. The concept of a climate stress test provides a framework for integrating climate and social variables more systematically and consistently within national security analysis.
A stress test is an exercise to assess the likely effects on particular countries, populations, or systems of potentially disruptive climate events. The recommended stress tests would involve analyzing the likely effects of an event at some projected time of occurrence in terms of key variables affecting susceptibility, coping, response, and recovery or the failure thereof, and the likely responses within regions or countries of interest in the event that these actions are perceived to be inadequate. The tests would draw on knowledge about the potential events and each of the other types of phenomena and would provide a major way of making knowledge about climate events, exposures, and vulnerabilities operational in security analysis.
Stress tests should assess the potential consequences for security of climate events under either of two conditions: when climate scientists can say with some confidence that the events will be increasingly likely to occur or become more severe, or when the events seem increasingly likely to occur based on a fundamental understanding of climate dynamics but available evidence is not yet sufficient for climate scientists to attach confidence to such projections. Stress tests might also be triggered by assessments indicating that event likelihood, exposure, or susceptibility is increasing or that the capacity to respond adequately to certain kinds of climate events is declining in a region or country of concern.
The results of stress tests would inform national security decision makers about places that are at risk of becoming security concerns as a result of climate events and could be used by the U.S. government or international aid agencies to target high-risk places for efforts to reduce susceptibilities or to improve coping, response, and recovery capacities. The stress testing process would also help advance understanding through an accumulation of data on potentially disruptive events and their social, political, and security consequences.
Countries, regions, and systems of particular security interest should be prime targets for periodic stress testing. Given the joint criteria of significant potential for climate change impacts and importance to U.S. national security, it is likely that no more than 12 to 15 countries will need to be monitored and subjected to periodic stress tests over the next decade, many of which are likely to be in critical, and often shared, watershed areas in South Asia, the Middle East, and Africa. If the criteria for importance to the United States are expanded to include foreign policy and humanitarian