Head Of U.S. Pacific Forces: Climate Change Is Biggest Threat To Region’s Security


The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Command has identified climate change as the most likely threat to the Pacific region, as ThinkProgress reported:

Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, commander of the U.S. Pacific Command, gave a striking answer when asked about the greatest threat the region faces: climate change.

Locklear told the <Boston Globe that the changing climate “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.”

Among the issues that the Admiral cited as most concerning was the possibility that rising sea-levels result in the disappearance of whole countries, producing influxes of ‘climate refugees‘ in neighboring states.

It’s surprising to hear the head of PACOM talk so starkly about the threats we face from climate change, but not surprising to hear this from the military. In 2010, the Quadrennial Defense Review made it clear that climate change impacts U.S. military resources:

While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas.

Peter Sinclair made a good video on national security impacts in 2010:

Most of those interviewed in that video are retired or former military, which makes Admiral Lockclear’s comments that much more striking.

It’s good to see climate hasn’t slipped from all national security considerations. Last year the CIA closed down its Center on Climate Change and National Security which opened in 2009.

Admiral Locklear went on to describe in his interview how important it was to coordinate multilaterally with China and India to respond to climate impacts:

“The ice is melting and sea is getting higher,” Locklear said, noting that 80 percent of the world’s population lives within 200 miles of the coast. “I’m into the consequence management side of it. I’m not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they’re contemplating moving their entire population to another country because [it] is not going to exist anymore.”

The US military, he said, is beginning to reach out to other armed forces in the region about the issue.

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.”

If the American, Chinese, and Indian militaries are coordinating on responding to the threats of climate impacts, perhaps the militaries could provide some support to other bilateral and multilateral efforts that have stalled on climate in the past.

12 Responses to Head Of U.S. Pacific Forces: Climate Change Is Biggest Threat To Region’s Security

  1. Endofmore says:

    after spending millennia in perfecting the art of collective homicide in the pursuit of resources when there was enough of everything for everyone on the planet, it is somewhat naive to expect mankind to change the habits of countless generations when things get really tough and millions begin to starve.
    Humanity will use every weapon available to secure survival, whether at family, local, national or continental level. We have no choice, the drive of our genes is to survive at all costs irrespective of human suffering

  2. Solar Jim says:

    For a worst case scenario, besides the above security discussion, “global warming” may manifest as a man-made extinction event. Direct and indirect impacts of fossil and forest derived carbonic acid gas may cause further significant demise of forest and phytoplankton ecosystems. This would reduce atmospheric replenishment (via photosynthesis) of oxygen enough to fall below that necessary for respirating organisms (such as us) to breathe.

    We really might want to reconsider those $700 billion of annual global fiscal public subsidies (Oil Change International, International Energy Agency, etc.) for “fossil fuels,” to say nothing of “tar sands.”

  3. Tami Kennedy says:

    It’s not like there aren’t enough war sparks around.

  4. Jim Baird says:

    Admiral Locklear might be interested in solutions to this security threat. Climate Change and Sea Level Rise –

  5. Jack Burton says:

    Wait till the religious fanatics get their chance to input their ideas into this when climate crisis impacts local populations. We saw what kinds of ideas get put about during the Black Death. When global extreme weather begins to kill and displace whole populations, then the religious nuts will be all over this with their preachings of sin and evil doers.
    Just one more problem mankind will face as things degenerate with the climate warming adding extreme weather events to an already unstable world.

  6. Endofmore says:

    glad I’m not the only one who has noticed this

  7. fj says:

    Extreme military crisis:must stop climate change at wartime speed.

  8. Endofmore says:

    erm—what do you have in mind exactly?

  9. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    Yes, indeed! Given the USA’s unrelenting hostility to China, over 60 years, recently ramped up to Cold War levels, I suspect this declaration is some sort of trap being set. The evil ‘ChiComms’ will fail to come up to US expectations at some stage, so a new dimension of hostility can be unleashed.

  10. Mulga Mumblebrain says:

    It’s even worse, Jack. There are plenty of ‘religious’ lunatics out there already who see the climate and other ecological disasters as a boon, hence their feverish work as denialists. They want the catastrophe to occur, to usher in the End Times and the Apocalypse and Armageddon, and all their other sick dreamworlds of mass suffering and death, as God destroys the ‘unGodly’ ie most of humanity. If a war with Iran or Pakistan or Russia or China can’t do the trick, then it will be, as the song says, ‘..the fire next time’.

  11. Camburn says:

    Shall we examine paleo data to understand that sea levels rise much higher than present during inter-glacials?

  12. Joan Savage says:

    I appreciate military focus on the next several decades. They connect the dots between ocean acidification and one billion people dependent on the ocean for food, thus looking at what kinds of conflicts develop with food shortage and mass migration.

    It certainly shifts me away from multi-century consequences, although those too are, well, consequential.