Debriefing: CCS - Building Climate Resilience Abroad


With the newly elected Biden Administration’s renewed focus on climate change and global climate-security issues, The Center for Climate & Security (CCS) has conducted several virtual events discussing the potential actions and impacts of the new administration’s platform. Since December of 2020, CSS coordinated 4 virtual webinar events featuring several high level experts to discuss the the potential of the Biden Administration in the global environment-security arena. Although all the events are unique in that they feature a different panel each time, the general tenor and overall message are quite similar. If you are interested in any of the events, I would view one with a panel that most interests you, but there isn’t much need to watch all of them. You can review all of the recent CCS events on their events page.

I attended the March 29, 2021 event entitled: Building Climate Resilience Abroad – How the US Can Help Allies and Partners With Climate Security Risks. The virtual event was hosted by Erin Sikorsky and featured:

  • Dr. Tegan Blaine, Senior Advisor, Environment and Conflict, US Institute of Peace

  • The Honorable Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist, The Center for Climate and Security, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security)

  • Dr. Marcus King, Senior Fellow, The Center for Climate and Security, Director of the Master of Arts in International Affairs Program (MAIA) at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs

  • Sarang Shidore, Senior Fellow, The Council on Strategic Risks, Senior Research Analyst, Lyndon B. Johnson School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin

Tegan Blaine opened the panel with a short talk focused on the importance of regional (multinational) cooperative partnerships to address climate change and security. Regional institutions provide several benefits to their member states including consolidated planning, resources, and data; this is especially true in developing countries. In her view, the United States must foster and support these organizations, however, the U.S. Department of State, USAID, and other traditional domestic avenues of action rely mostly on bilateral action and lack the infrastructure in place for regional and collective support.

The latter half of Tegan’s presentation was focused on the importance of urban areas in climate change management. While there is a large focus on the rural/agriculture “point-source” of climate-security issues, less attention is paid to the downstream impacts after the rural population migrates to urban areas. This is of particular interest and importance, because the effects on cities from migrants being “pushed” to the city from climate change or conflict, as opposed to being “pulled” to the city for economic reasons, are very different. This is specifically noteworthy in regards to resilience assessment and capacity building; there is no shortage at the national level, but increasing resilience and adaptive capacity at the municipal level can be more important. Although this can be more difficult than at the national level, because it requires building trust with local constituents.

Sherri Goodman followed up Tegan Blaine with a brief talk speaking to the importance of expanding military engagement with climate mitigation by staffing climate experts that are more than just logistic experts. There is a dearth of socio, political, and environmental scientists. In addition to a need for staffing, Sherri relayed a desire to witness more climate mitigation “war-gaming” exercises. Climate change scenario management training are limited, and when conducted, frequently result in few, if any, acceptable anticipated responses given current resources.

The next speaker was Markus King. As a Middle East and North Africa (MENA) expert he feels that water stress and security are, by far, the most important component of climate change management and mitigation. This is not only true in MENA, but around the globe. In Central America, drought leads to rural ➞ urban migration that creates a U.S.A. domestic issue, because the cities are violent, which results in the rural migrants opting to migrate to the U.S.A. At this time, Dr. King feels the U.S.A. lacks the capacity for cohesive and comprehensive management of climate related migrants and refugees. However, there is optimism as the Biden Administration recently tasked all departments to assess their climate management capacity, and issued the February 2 Executive Order tasking all departments with additional research to identify future potential hotspots. These plans would be bolstered by the U.S.A. aligning their climate plans both internally and with international efforts.

The final speaker was Sarang Shidore. He seconded Tegan’s concern for urban climate planning, and as a South Asian expert, is of the opinion that the cities of the 1950’s are not appropriate for developing countries in the face of climate change. This is of particular importance in northwest India and Pakistan where they are experiencing severe water insecurity, and the greater South Asian region where he believes there is a lack of understanding regarding the effects of monsoons in a changing climate. Although India has been quite progressive in their urban climate mitigation and planning, other nations are lagging behind; this may be a future issue in Bangladesh, which is currently undergoing rapid growth.

If you want to view the full event and the live Q&A session visit the session YouTube page.

Remember to check out the DANTE news page for other environment-security events you might have missed. Also review several links below that are relevant to this session.

  1. USAID Local Capacity Development

  2. CCS: The Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent

  3. Global Fragility Act (2019) Fact Sheet

    1. The Fragility Act (H.R.2116)

    2. Press

  4. Regional Organizations Addressing Climate Change

  5. NATO and the Security Implications of Climate Change

  6. The 2/2/21 Executive Order (Climate, Security, and Migration)

  7. International Military Council on Climate and Security: Statement for Climate Risks in Asia

  8. International Military Council on Climate and Security: Strategic Pathway in South Asia (2021)