Earlier this week, the Pentagon released a report laying out the threats that climate change poses in the near future.

The danger is wide-ranging, and according to The New York Times, includes “increased risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty, food shortages” and heightened demand for disaster response.

Ironically, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, who led the charge against the U.S. signing the Kyoto Protocol in 1997, touched on the report Monday in Peru at a meeting for defense officials:

“The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere,” Mr. Hagel said. “Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration.

The report is the latest in a series of studies highlighting the national security risks of climate change. But the Pentagon’s characterization of it as a present-day threat demanding immediate action represents a significant shift for the military, which has in the past focused on climate change as a future risk.

Before, the Pentagon’s response to climate change focused chiefly on preparing military installations to adapt to its effects, like protecting coastal naval bases from rising sea levels. The new report, however, calls on the military to incorporate climate change into broader strategic thinking about high-risk regions — for example, the ways in which drought and food shortages might set off political unrest in the Middle East and Africa.

Pentagon officials are also considering how climate change may have impacted areas in the Middle East like Syria, where Islamic State took advantage of water shortages to gain influence in the region.

— Posted by Donald Kaufman

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