blackouts (Ayub, 2011). The blackouts and water shortages themselves were disruptive enough, but, in addition, their cause became a contentious political issue with the potential to inflame Pakistan–India relations. The Pakistani foreign minister blamed the decreased flows on illegal water withdrawals upstream by India; the commissioner of the Indus River System Authority in Pakistan attributed them to climate change (Jafrani, 2010).

Social and Political Disruption and U.S. National Security

Climate events that affect vulnerable places or life-supporting systems can become concerns for U.S. national security in at least two ways. One is by creating social or political stresses or inducing policy actions within or between foreign countries that pose security risks for the United States. Another is by developing into major humanitarian crises that directly create U.S. national security concerns or engage U.S. resources that also have national security missions. In either case, disruptions from climate events in other countries are usually at least one step removed from U.S. national security concerns. The intervening steps may involve violent domestic conflicts or the deterioration of governments’ abilities to function in affected countries, cross-border wars, mass international migration, demands on the United States to provide humanitarian relief, or the diversion of U.S. military and other resources from current security missions to disaster response. In short, any effects of climate events and climate change on U.S. national security over the next decade are likely to be indirect, mediated by the susceptibilities of human life-supporting systems to harm in exposed places or through global social or economic processes, the responses of national governments and international institutions to experienced harm, and the social and political consequences of responses that are or are perceived to be inadequate. This means that the potential effects of climate change on U.S. national security cannot be anticipated without considering all of these conditions and potential responses. Security issues may also arise when the response of a government is to suppress popular demands for assistance or to prevent access to aid.


The framework sketched in Figure 2-1 has several noteworthy implications for security analysis.

“Impacts of Climate Change” Do Not Result Only from Climate Change

The effects of climate change on human well-being and on U.S. national security will depend not only on climatic and environmental conditions,

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