climate events in ways that create security threats. For example, U.S. agricultural price interventions, as in use of corn for fuel, can have a direct impact on food prices in fragile societies that can be amplified by climate events that reduce agricultural production. Decisions to protect a country against climate events can also create or accelerate crises; for example, a unilateral decision by Turkey regarding the management of headwaters for the Tigris–Euphrates system could immediately generate crisis conditions. Another example is climate geo-engineering, which is already attracting considerable attention (Royal Society, 2009) and may become a source of conflict. In addition to the monitoring capacity we recommend here, the intelligence community will need the means to monitor, understand, and make forecasts concerning such developments.


The analysis in the previous chapters, developed from our conceptual framework which was informed by an analysis of available knowledge, indicates that from a natural security perspective the climate events of most concern are those that would create the equivalent of a perfect storm: a country or region of importance to U.S. national security that experiences an extreme climate-related event or the effects of a climate-related shock to a global system that meets a critical need, that has significant human and economic assets in harm’s way, where those assets are highly susceptible to harm, where local coping ability is static or decreasing, and where official response systems prove to be ineffective. In order to assess the likelihood that a country or region will experience a conjunction of these factors, all of these dimensions of security risk need to be monitored, that is, data about all these phenomena need to be repeatedly collected and examined.

Conclusion 6.1: Monitoring to anticipate national security risks related to climate events should focus on five key types of phenomena:


  1. Climate events and related biophysical environment phenomena;
  2. The exposures of human populations and the systems that provide food, water, health, and other essentials to life and well-being;
  3. The susceptibilities of people, assets, and resources to harm from climate events;
  4. The ability to cope with, respond to, and recover from shocks; and
  5. The potential for outcomes of inadequate coping, response, and recovery to rise to the level of concern for U.S. national security.

In the domain of climate and biophysical environment variables, it is particularly important to monitor and estimate the likelihood of potentially

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