World Security Chiefs Debate Military Response to Climate Change 

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Journalist and political scientist Thomas Ricks describes poet Allen Ginsberg as writing foreign policy magazine 11 years ago, “I see the best minds of my generation doing counter-terrorism studies.”

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Another analyst today might be inclined to assess the growing awareness of the threat of climate change, “I see the best minds of my generation studying natural disaster response.”

Military and political leaders from around the world gathered in eastern Canada on 19-21 November for an annual meeting known as the Halifax International Security Forum. As it was a year ago, China was high on participants’ minds, but a new topic also attracted a lot of attention – how to deal with climate change and the serious natural disasters that come with it.


The issue was more than theoretical. As national security chiefs and theorists met on the Atlantic coastline, military units were being deployed along Canada’s Pacific coast to deal with record-breaking rain and flooding that forced thousands of people out of their homes and left the region. The largest city separated Vancouver.

storm flood

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The floods offered a harsh reminder for participants in the last individual Halifax Forum in 2019, when Canadian soldiers were still helping clean up from a storm that caused permanent damage to Halifax, including a record against a high The collapse of the construction crane was also involved. It took months to pick up and remove.

Canada’s new Defense Minister, Anita Anand, delivered the inaugural lecture at this year’s stage, which included a panel dedicated to natural disasters, “Fire and Landslide and Drought, Oh My!” In his remarks, Anand narrated a list of recent incidents in which Canadian forces were deployed to deal with natural disasters and the coronavirus pandemic.

Onno Eichelsheim, the Dutch defense chief and a general in the Netherlands Armed Forces as a member of the Natural Disasters Panel, spoke passionately about how climate change threatens the Netherlands, a country highly vulnerable to rising sea levels.

A U.S. Senate delegation that included Gene Shaheen, D.H., James Risch, R-Idaho, Tim Kaine, D-Va., Chris Koons, D-Del., Roger Wicker, R-Miss., and Joni Ernst, R. Were. -Iowa, Halifax speak at the International Security Forum. (Jay Heisler/Granthshala)

“Natural disaster response is already here,” Eichelsheim later told Granthshala. “It’s something that our military is used to doing, if you look at the Caribbean element of our state.” The Netherlands embraces three Caribbean islands – Aruba, Curaçao and St. Maarten.

“Our military is ready” for natural disaster deployment, Eichelsheim said. “We equip them, we train them. … Maybe, we’ll start doing it more and more. The question is, do we have the ability to do that?

US Senator Jim Risk, former commander of the Idaho National Guard, said in an interview that the ability and willingness to use the military to deal with natural disasters varies from country to country.

“Every government is different. Their agencies are different. Some may have a habit of reacting to emergencies and some may not,” he said. “Our American system, our federal military, is not as busy defending the country as the national guards are.”

role of space force

Still, the US military’s newest branch, the Space Force, or USSF, sees a role for itself in monitoring and responding to natural disasters, which are increasing in frequency and severity as the world climates.

“USSF collaborates globally with partners to develop technology, share data, and provide potential disaster warnings,” said a statement provided by a Space Force spokesperson in response to Granthshala’s questions. “We are particularly focused on developing an architecture for space-based environmental monitoring to support the Department of Air Force’s strategy for the Arctic region.”

Patrick Tucker, editor of Defense One Technology, said in an interview that world leaders are appreciating that issues such as new technologies, supply chain management and the rise of China, as well as climate change, are a big part of their future security calculations. will be part.

“I think it’s good that people are starting to understand that climate change is going to be a factor in almost every national security discussion,” Tucker said.

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