The top American military officer in the Pacific, in charge of watching over the region containing China, North Korea, and Russia, has warned that the greatest long-term threat to security in the region isn’t any of those countries, it’s climate change.
In an interview with the Boston Globe, Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III recently stated that climate change “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.”
“People are surprised sometimes,” he continued. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”
The displacement of entire nations will cause significant upheaval in the region, the admiral noted. The creation of large numbers of “climate refugees” will be one of the most significant effects of future climate change, leading to further conflict, food insecurity, environmental destruction, and an increased likelihood of a pandemic.
Military agencies tend to be considerably more pragmatic than political groups, as many of the Navy’s recent actions and statements have demonstrated, and in contrast to the deadlock in American politics with regards to climate change. The Navy has already begun changing the way that it operates, and also the way that it interacts with the countries in the Pacific region.
“We have interjected into our multilateral dialogue – even with China and India – the imperative to kind of get military capabilities aligned [for] when the effects of climate change start to impact these massive populations,” he said. “If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.”