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There Is No Security Without Sustainability

Under President Donald Trump, the US has abandoned the fight against climate change and jeopardized its own national security. As US military and intelligence-community leaders have made clear, world peace and stability depend on sustainable development and increased resilience against the shocks associated with global warming.

WASHINGTON, DC – Leaders from around the world met in September for the 74th session of the United Nations General Assembly to discuss some of the most pressing challenges facing our world today, including economic, environmental, and social sustainability, as well as the ever-growing impact of climate change. Less often discussed is the important role these conversations play in shaping national-security priorities, particularly those of the United States. Given the inextricable link between sustainable development and national security, greater support for the former will make all of us safer in the long run.

Some of the links between sustainable development and national security are obvious. Many current US military officials have publicly identified climate change – a major factor affecting sustainable development – as a threat to national security. As the latest Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community shows, “environmental degradation and climate change” could have a substantial impact on US military training facilities, bases, and theaters of operation.

There is also a clear and direct link between sustainable development and state fragility. As I have argued elsewhere, insurgencies and failed states pose a direct threat to the security of the US and its partners and allies, which is why they often require an American response. Yet focusing on sustainable development can help fragile states become prosperous and secure, thus ensuring that US interventions need never occur. And even when an intervention is necessary, similar efforts in the aftermath can help mitigate many of the factors that might cause future instability.