The Middle East and Central Asia—almost the entire U.S. Central Command area of responsibility—will be hard hit by global climate change in the coming decades. But how will climate hazards affect the security environments in which U.S. military forces operate? RAND hosted a panel discussion about how climate hazards will exacerbate long-standing stressors, and how this factor will affect stability and the frequency of conflict in the region.

Transcript

Katharina Best

I am Katharina Best. I am a senior operations researcher here at RAND, as well as the Associate Director of the Personnel Training and Health Program in RAND's Arroyo Center. I'm very excited to be introducing this panel today. So I welcome you, on behalf of the International Security Defense Program of RAND's National Security Research Division, to this event. I think it will be a very interesting and exciting discussion. Climate change—obviously an important topic. I recently had the opportunity to lead a study looking at climate change and its many ways of affecting military readiness, which was a very, very broad topic. Report is on the RAND website, if anyone is interested.

But we had such a large scope that we had to scope out one of the pieces of that question, which we get asked about the most, and that is, How will climate change potentially affect demands for the kinds of capabilities that the DoD might have to bring to different regions of the world? And thankfully, we have some colleagues here today who have taken on that really difficult problem, and we'll get to talk about that topic today.

Let me get to the exciting part here. I'm going to go ahead and introduce the panelists. We have Chris Backemeyer, who is the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Assistance Coordination and Regional and Multilateral Affairs, as part of the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs, where he works on regional policy, coordination of foreign assistance, and other kind of cross-cutting issues. We also have Greg Pollock, the Principal Director for Arctic and Global Resilience at the U.S. Department of Defense, where he works on climate and energy security issues, centered around the Arctic. Then from RAND, we have Jeff Martini, who is the Associate Director of the Strategy, Doctrine, and Resources program in the RAND Arroyo Center, as well as a senior international defense researcher. And Karen Sudkamp, the Associate Director of the Infrastructure, Immigration, and Security Operations program within RAND's Homeland Security Research Division. She's also a management scientist. And then finally, we have Vago Muradian, who is here to be our moderator and host. He is an editor and podcast host of the Defense & Aerospace Report. So with that, I will get off the stage and turn it over to you, Vago.

Vago Muradian

Katharina, thanks very much. I'm honored. I'm sorry I had my back to you the entire time. And I'm honored to be participating in this conversation, which I think is a very important one. This is a field I've covered for a long time. And, I think that, what was once the theoretical is now actually becoming reality and is increasingly going to be driving global events. Switzerland's running out of water. California has too much water, which, you know, it is in danger of washing away, which presumably for RAND would be kind of a big deal, assuming Santa Monica doesn't get spared, and the global weather patterns are at risk of even changing further. If you look at the Atlantic conveyor, which I've been paying attention to, something very obscure in scientific circles, it's approaching stalling. And if that does, that has tectonic events on global climate. So things are not good. They're going to get worse. It's probably irrevocable now, unfortunately, the damage we've done. I mean, I don't know how you start to refreeze the base of the Antarctic ice sheet, from which a lot of water is coming into the oceans and raising oceans. Nations are still pressing ahead their own strategies to secure their own most precious resource, water. Turkey is building dams. Other nations are building dams that are causing problems, that are going to exacerbate crises. And speaking of water and , you know, too much water in some places, Norfolk Naval Base is struggling with too much water, and the cost of that facility alone, if I remember correctly, from sort of 15 years ago, was $6 billion. So that's just one facility. And you can magnify that around the world and see the kind of problems we have.

DoD obviously has to be focused on the pacing challenge, which is China. And also the threat from from Russia. But this is something that's going to, I think, unfortunately, consume increasing bandwidth of whether we like it or not over the coming decades.

So, with that in mind, Chris, I want to start with you because, you know, DIME starts with D, which is diplomacy, which is the job of the State Department. I'm one of the people who believes the State Department should be, have a little more primacy, sometimes, in how this goes and the DoD becomes the supporting element. But, hey, DoD is a lot bigger than the State Department is. Walk us through what the State Department's strategy is for this, right? And also your bureau strategy. And is that— You know, and what are our allies and partners telling us? Right. Is this grounds for more cooperation, or is this grounds for more friction?

Chris Backemeyer

Yeah. Well, first, thank you for having me here. Thanks to the RAND team. I've been lucky enough to be able to interact a little bit with the report authors throughout this process. And I just want to say, this is a really important topic that we need to, that we need to contend with.

You know, we all are talking about climate change, but the security elements of it, the security consequences of it, especially in the region that I cover, which is the Middle East and North Africa, are really profound. You know, your question, sort of how the region looks at climate change and the impacts of it, is an important one. I've been saying for a while that our region is really one of the most central regions in the world when it comes to climate. We've got, we've got the Gulf countries, which are the big fossil fuel producers and whose economies are completely dependent on fossil fuels, that are looking at an economic transition that needs to take place in coming years for them to stay at the level of GDP that they have now and hopefully grow. We've got the other range where you've got Jordan, for example, that is just desperate for water. Even before we get to the really worst parts of a changing climate, it's already in a really bad water security position. We've got for— We've got food and water security across the region. You've got Iraq in the middle where— a big oil and gas producer that emits a lot of emissions and methane and others from flaring and things like that, yet at the same time also has a really big water crisis.

And so, I've been fortunate enough to go to the last two UN climate conferences that are based in our region and engaged with all of our various partners. And it's on the top of their minds. You know, we for years have been focused purely on security when it comes to the Middle East and North Africa, you know, and now we've got climate. We have to help these countries. I think as far as our strategy goes, we have to help the Gulf countries transition to a new clean economy. But they need to help us, frankly, with their investment, their innovation, and with their willingness to transition. And then we need to help the other countries adapt to climate change. And that's something that's really difficult that we need to do through our development programs. We need to catalyze foreign— or catalyze private sector investment in those countries, in places that don't always have the best climate, for lack of a better term, for investment. And so it's all part of, you know, it's all part of the same puzzle. We need to make them more economically viable. We need to bring in innovation, and we need to bring them all along.

And the U.S. has an important role to play. We're certainly not the only actor, but it's going to be, I think, increasingly important, as we can see today. You know, the security in the region is something that can change at the drop of a dime. And while we're, you know, dealing with the conflict now that is not climate induced, certainly the potential for climate-induced conflict is there. And it's something that, you know, we would be wise to continue to try to mitigate.

Vago Muradian

Greg, from a DoD perspective, right. I mean, DoD ends up, you know, doing a lot of things just because you have capacity, right? You get assigned to build a port in Gaza because you have the capability in order to do that, or at least the United States Army does. Talk to us a little bit about the department's strategy and approach, right. This is something we've talked about for a long time. It did begin in the Bush administration, talking about the importance of paying attention to some of these things as drivers, irrespective of whether it's manmade or not. From your standpoint, you know, what's the DoD strategy? What's the approach, from a macro perspective, when it comes to this issue in the kind of missions and challenges that we're going to be facing down the road?

Greg Pollock

Yeah. Thanks, Vago. And it's a pleasure to be reconnected with you. And I do want to start with a note of thanks to the RAND team, both for inviting me to speak on this important set of issues today, as well as for the research and analysis that you're all producing and really kind of elevating the level of focus on this interlocking set of challenges, which, as Chris alluded, really have to be dealt with through a whole-of-government approach. This is a cross-cutting issue. We're here today to talk about the Middle East in particular. But obviously, this is a global challenge, and it's one that affects all of our allies and partners as well as our own joint force. So the scale of the challenge and the diversity of the risks is profound.

The causal pathways between climate change and conflict are complex, as I think the RAND reports really do a fabulous job laying out. But I think we do know enough at this point to understand the ways in which a changing climate is compounding risks, and it's making a very already quite volatile world even more unstable. So that's really where DoD gets drawn into these kinds of issues. And that's before we get to, and perhaps we'll talk a little later about, the effects on societies associated with the energy transition, which, in a part of the world that still produces, you know, upwards of 30% of the world's oil, as the world starts to move away from hydrocarbons, that's going to have a real, potentially destabilizing effect on the region as well. But I'll talk a little bit about what DoD is doing to get its arms around this.

It really begins, for us, with strategic focus. The fact that this latest national defense strategy has a laser focus on the intersection between climate change and national security, I think is a real step change from the past, where I think DoD, for a long time, with the exception of some of the incipient efforts in the Bush administration, perhaps, looked at climate change as a problem that would be dealt with by somebody else. I think now, whether it's in, you know, the CENTCOM leadership, the various combatant commands— They are hearing, as Chris alluded, from allies and partners, day in and day out, that this is a existential threat to them. And in some ways, it's a— it's kind of like table stakes to having a conversation with them about the sorts of things that we care about. If you want to have a relationship with a Pacific island nation right now, say, or, you know, countries in the CENTCOM AOR, like Jordan, who are facing profound threats associated with water scarcity, you need to be able to talk about these issues and demonstrate that you can do something about them. So strategic focus. And that's where the stand up of our new office, for Arctic and Global Resilience, that deals with the national security implications of climate change as well as energy resilience matters. I think that's really kind of helpful in sort of establishing a node that can work these issues within the department and establish a focal point, not only for the department to work with around the world, but also in terms of our interface with the interagency, which, again, is imperative to doing this right.

In addition to the strategic focus, upping our game in terms of understanding the problem. And again, that's where these think tank reports are so helpful. But we have a number of different efforts going on. Analysis, wargaming, tabletop exercises, in all of the combatant commands, including CENTCOM, to better understand the problem, to make sure that we have a good sense of what the risks are and on what timelines they will emerge in various scenarios. That's a complex undertaking, as the research team will probably talk a little bit about here, but it's something that we're doing a lot more to lean into. Building up climate literacy in education across the joint force is something that, in particular, my colleagues in the Personnel and Readiness shop are spending a lot of time on, ensuring that, at every level, the warfighter has access to kind of resources that help them ascertain what the implications of climate change are for their specific jobs.

And then our own force. So how do we make our own force, which is still a significant emitter of greenhouse gas emissions, more energy efficient? Not just for the sake of reducing our greenhouse gas footprint, but to make our force more capable, more agile, more lethal, and more resilient, which is exactly what the NDS sets out as the sort of primary focus of the joint force. And that's where these new technologies are really incredibly relevant for defense. Installation resilience. You mentioned Norfolk at the top. Obviously, DoD has a huge number of installations, both here in the continental United States and around the world. So thinking through how we make them more resilient, we've seen, just in the last few years, $8 billion in damage just associated with the storms that affected Tyndall, Lejeune, and Offutt, respectively. And that's money that isn't going into warfighting capability. That is— those are reconstruction costs. So if we can avoid those costs moving forward, that makes sense, you know, from every angle.

And lastly, the allies and partners piece. And I think this is an area where we are doing more in conjunction with our State Department colleagues as well as our USAID colleagues and elsewhere. But, you know, the challenges of climate change are going to hit the most vulnerable parts of the world first. And I think there is some work to do in terms of ensuring we have a kind of offer set to build up their resilience and ensure that, you know, our force is not being called on for more and more humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations. That takes away, again, joint force readiness from other deterrence and warfighting requirements.

Vago Muradian

We'll get to the financing of this and what are some of the other things that we need to be doing. And I should have mentioned at the top, right? I mean, the Arctic is rapidly going from someplace— You know, the North Pole is going from, you know, sort of a destination to a geographic feature, in part because, you know, everything's melting up there, and that's going to cause a whole series of other challenges as global traffic increases up there. Jeff, I want to turn to you. You guys did an impressive body of work, a series of five reports. And, Karen, I'll turn to you in a second for the recommendations. But Jeff, what we were some of the top-line findings that came out of the work?

Jeff Martini

Sure. Well, thanks for getting us started, Vago. And thanks to our government colleagues for really framing the challenges.

In terms of the main findings from the report, we start from looking at a geographic area that is the CENTCOM area of responsibility. Keep in mind, that's more than 20 countries stretching from Egypt, in the western part of the CENTCOM AOR, all the way to Kazakhstan in the east. So you got to start from the understanding that it's actually very diverse physical terrain, and the climate impacts are very localized. So we think the value of what we did is this highly localized microclimate assessment at the grid level. And we encourage all to really engage with the reports, because that's where the interesting findings come out.

At a broader level, if you look across the CENTCOM area of responsibility, of course, it already starts from a baseline of being a very hot region in a region that's warming at a greater rate relative to the globe. It also starts contending with long-term dryness and these punctuated droughts. And regardless of the emissions scenarios you look at, those climate stresses are projected to get worse. Whether you're looking at a decade, two decades, a half century. And as we talked about before we came online, some of those effects are baked in the cake. Even if we take steps to mitigate emissions. I would say some of the more non-intuitive findings from our climate assessment are at a localized level. A flag one. If you looked at the CENTCOM AOR, I would guess many of you would not be able to guess that Israel is actually the country that's going to be most exposed to an increase in extreme heat days relative to what it's experiencing now, relative to the baseline. And so if you looked at the AOR, I doubt many people would guess that. And that's why you need to do these very localized climate assessments.

But the real headline from our report is the intersection of this climate assessment with the security environment. What will be the future of conflict in the AOR. As I think DAS Backemeyer alluded to, this area of responsibility is ripe with other conflict drivers. So poor quality governance, economic underdevelopment, ethnic divides, and so forth. And the way that we think about climate change and other scholars have thought about climate change is it's really a threat multiplier. We have these stresses that are interacting with other conflict drivers and could produce a much more conflictual future. As my colleague Karen will jump in and talk about, what we project for CENTCOM is the need to do more stabilization operations, more noncombatant evacuations, more humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. And there'll need to be interaction with the interagency, because on many of those missions, State Department and USAID is actually the lead.

As for the big—let's call it that hundred billion dollar question—of will climate change beget more big interstate war, state-on-state conflict? There's a lot of uncertainty. That phenomenon, thank God, is still relatively rare. It's a rare phenomenon. So it's tough to give you a point estimate on to what degree climate will exacerbate that. But we went through these causal pathways that Principal Director Pollock alluded to earlier that shows there are credible paths by which we may see a big war, say, a water war, from this. And we profiled the Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam, which sits at the intersection of the CENTCOM area of responsibility and the AFRICOM area of responsibility, as ripe for that. And we actually analyzed the defense acquisitions of what would be the belligerents in that conflict and concluded they are at least preparing for that type of war over resource scarcity.

Vago Muradian

And that's one of— I think it's the world's largest dam, or one of the world's largest dams. Now, I'm going to ask you— just one second, Karen. Why Israel, right? I think everything was self-evident in what you explained, but I think a lot of people might be scratching their heads on why Israel is so vulnerable.

Jeff Martini

The short answer to that is you want to look at relative change. And so countries that already experience a great amount of extreme heat, say, Saudi Arabia, where over half the year is already days of extreme heat, they're going to see a relatively smaller change. So countries that are not quite at that threshold, say in Israel, where your criteria is the number of days over 95°F, are more exposed to that change. And it will have an operational impact. It's much harder to store munitions, you know, deliver effects in that type of conflict, and will require much more personnel. Yeah.

Vago Muradian

Got it. So, this was a terrific report, but it's all about the recommendations that are drawn from all that hard work. What are the key recommendations, Karen?

Karen Sudkamp

Well, before I start, again, thank you everyone for coming today. And thank you everyone for being here on the panel.

So, we generally had, I would say, probably, like, two broad categories of recommendations. And both DAS Backemeyer and Principal Director Pollock has kind of hit on these. I'll start initially with those for the U.S. and the force, and a predominant one for us was looking at climate literacy. Building more climate-informed decisionmaking kind of across the entire force. A lot of the discussions that we usually end up having end up with personnel in the J4, thinking about logistics and all of those aspects. But ultimately we need to have people who understand climate and how it impacts operational effectiveness. So then the J3 can understand how adversaries may be operating or thinking about leveraging changing climate. So your intelligence professionals, and honestly your long term planners, and in the J5 as well. So it's really across the board. The entire force needs to start to be really thinking about how these climate hazards and how these climate changes are really going to affect the operational environment and effectiveness of the force.

Looking at our partners and allies in the region, we really— We started calling it nontraditional security cooperation. You know, all of us have, you know, identified a lot of security cooperation that's already going on in the region, very strong relationships across the board. But there's this opportunity to, particularly from the DoD perspective, where we've talked about. DoD isn't naturally the leader in this space. But there are opportunities for collaboration, not only bilaterally but also multilaterally, between the United States and regional partners to also share knowledge and technologies and capabilities to address climate resiliency, climate adaptation, mitigation. And so it's not just, kind of, you know, how, you know, any number of, you know, current security cooperation arrangements are of, you know, the United States necessarily coming in to say we have all of the answers. Here are the recommendations on how to, you know, professionalize your force, etc., or conduct particular type of military operations.

But this really is an environment— A lot of our partners, the United Arab Emirates is a good example. A lot of, you know, and other Persian Gulf countries of, you know— They have technology, they have the— You know, they're trying to figure out how to adapt and survive in, you know, in a hotter and drier climate. And so that information and experience can also be shared with other countries as well. So, now, educating the force, but then also collaborating and cooperating more with, you know, our State, you know, State Department colleagues, USAID, kind of across the board to help build more climate resilient, you know, partners and allies.

Vago Muradian

Partners and allies. And you can't live with 'em can't live without 'em.

So, Chris, from the standpoint of buying down the risk, right? I mean, ultimately, it's great that we're, you know, planning. It's great that we've got a strategy that gives us a little bit of focus. But what are the variety of things that we need to be doing to be buying down that risk? I want to get to investment in a little bit because these numbers can be very, very large. And people disagree with the foreign aid budget as it exists right now. Or, you know, why are you doing so much MILCOM? Why is the Defense Department budget the size it is? Why are we giving aid to Ukraine? If you can imagine adding hundreds of billions of dollars to that, it becomes a little bit, you know, even more people may sit up and notice. Chris, from your standpoint, I mean, is this, is this about partnership capacity? Is it about civil works? Is it about economic assistance? Is it, you know, preparing for humanitarian and disaster relief? I mean, what are the pieces of this that are the levers that you guys at the State Department can be pulling, in order, you know, and preparing for the long term— [gestures to Greg Pollock] You're going to get, I guess, the more equipment-rich part of that question in a second.

Chris Backemeyer

Yeah.

Vago Muradian

What's the sense?

Chris Backemeyer

It's a great question. I think the answer is all of the above. And all areas that, while we're working on, we need to do more and more of.

If you look at how we're deploying our economic and development assistance around the region, whether it's USAID or the State Department, we've been integrating, you know, climate benchmarks into all of that programing, focusing on helping to deploy solar and other sorts of climate technologies, helping to build the capacity of our partners to deal with their own climate challenges. And so things like, you know, helping them on the waterfront, helping them build capacity so that they have the technical know-how to do that. Emergency preparedness, as you mentioned, both from a humanitarian perspective, as far as the deployment of our humanitarian resources, but helping our partners develop their own emergency preparedness capabilities so that when we do have climate crises, flooding or the like, that they're ready or at least able to have an initial response. You look at our funding across the— especially the Middle East and North Africa, a huge majority of it does go to security assistance. This is part of our long-standing effort to help our partners, you know, maintain stability within the region and maintain security. And so we do have to do more, working with DoD and then working also with our military partners and other countries to help make sure that they're using that money in a way that is helping their own countries adapt to climate change, be prepared for climate change, or climate events. And then at the same time, also, you know, making sure that that's not going towards making the climate situation worse.

Vago Muradian

Right.

Chris Backemeyer

And that's where it gets really tricky because, you know, obviously, now, I'd love to hear from my DoD colleagues on that too, but, you know, getting to the point of where we're not, you know— Most of our efforts, when it goes towards military preparedness, isn't thinking about how it's, you know, affecting the climate traditionally. And so we've got to get to a place where we're doing that differently.

And then, I guess the last thing I would just say, from a pure diplomatic perspective, what we've tried to do is really build up regional partnerships. No matter, no amount of foreign assistance, even if you took all of the security assistance that we're providing and put it towards climate, it's not even a drop in the bucket when it comes to what we need to do on climate. So we need to get the countries working together. We had been working on some really innovative regional partnerships, one being Project Prosperity, which was launched by Secretary John Kerry. And that was a solar-for-water deal between Israel, Jordan, and then financed by the UAE. Something that's more or less paused given the current geopolitical context, but it has a lot of potential to sort of lay a pathway for how countries can work together to solve local—as Jeff noted—local problems, that that they have in a way, or at least regional problems that they have, from a climate perspective. And so we still think those are the sorts of solutions that can really be sustainable over the long term.

Vago Muradian

And you guys have a partnership with the Department of Agriculture, right, to be able to do things on, you know, crops and whatever in places that are affected by less water than they'd like.

Chris Backemeyer

Yeah, exactly. We work closely with the Department of Agriculture. That's really key in our region in particular, where, you know, water-smart agriculture is really important and teaching— You know, the Israelis in particular are really good at this. Other countries are not so good. And we need to, you know— We're quite good at in the United States, and we need to be able to help share those skills around the region. Jordan's a particular place where this is really important.

Vago Muradian

Yeah, but the poor Dead Sea is getting clobbered because they're both, you know, draining it as fast as they can. I'm sorry. Go ahead, Karen.

Karen Sudkamp

Yeah. I just wanted to kind of build on some of the things that DAS Backemeyer was talking about, and particularly, as we're thinking about, and this may be a particular DoD term of art, but remaining the partner of choice. Some of our research and our findings realize that key adversaries and competitors—Russia, China—have specific tools and capabilities and resources that can be provided to regional partners as well. And so, you know, to address climate or various different types of issues, which may or may not actually kind of be the, you know, the best for long term environmental protections and things along those lines. So, you know, there is this opportunity for climate and, you know, resilience and adaptation, for us to continue to build those relationships and be cooperative and collaborative with partners. You know, one really interesting example that we had in one of our tabletop discussions was how China is using humanitarian assistance and disaster relief to kind of show that, oh, we're involved in the region, we're really the best partner, even though they're not coming— They're the first on the scene, but they don't have the right materials to actually respond. But they're there first, versus, you know, it might take the United States a little bit longer, but we get it right. And, but that's not what's in the news. So,

Vago Muradian

It's all our fault.

Karen Sudkamp

[laughs] Always. So, you know, so this really is an arena where there's opportunities to kind of remain a partner of choice in the region as well.

Vago Muradian

And I want to come to the geopolitical competition and where we stand on that. But, Greg, from your standpoint, [inaudible], and DoD at least has— This is where I disagree with Dr. Gates. You know, he said we always get it wrong. We actually don't always get it wrong. And there are some things that we get right, sometimes, because we are able to think long term, and DoD can think long term and plan long term and execute long term as well.

I mean, what does that look like from a DoD standpoint, as you're looking at it? Right? I mean, in the Arctic, you got to work with our Canadian allies and partners. There's no infrastructure up there, right? That's a challenge in its own right. What does this look like from a DoD perspective?

Greg Pollock

Yeah. Thanks. So much to build on here. And I think this discussion just demonstrates how both complex and rich with opportunity this space is. I think the, you know, the ideal scenario is the one that Chris described that is, you know, thinking about the challenges of climate change as a way to hasten more regional cooperation. It sounds apocryphal, but my understanding is that the word "rival" actually goes back to meaning one who shares the same water source. So, you know, there are limits to our ability to foster that kind of cooperation in areas of the world that are long riven with distrust. And I think those are the environments where we see the climate conflict kind of nexus as being most likely.

But I headed up the security cooperation enterprise within the Secretary of Defense for Policy for a couple years. And the way we thought about it was that, you know, security cooperation, along with security assistance managed by the State Department, was all about raising up the capacity of our allies and partners to both operate in coalition with U.S. forces or in lieu of U.S. forces. That is, being able to handle these challenges on the front lines, on their own, with a little bit less direct U.S. support, perhaps, over time. That does take time, that takes investment, that takes partnership. But I think that is something that the U.S. is doing increasingly well. Albeit we don't have the full offer set that perhaps some of our competitors bring to bear.

I think, you know, infrastructure is an area in particular where some of our competitors have a greater ability to flow resources in quickly than we do. And that does put us conceivably at a little bit of a disadvantage in terms of being the partner of choice. But I think we bank on the fact that we're going to do it right over time, as Karen alluded, and that we are a steadfast partner. You know, we stay engaged over the long term. And it's the case, I think, that even small levels of investment can have outsized effect.

I think someone mentioned earlier, early warning mechanisms, planning capacity. These are the sorts of things that, you know, don't cost a lot—basic communications kit—but can have real outsized effect in terms of vulnerable nation states' ability to both prepare for and respond to climate-related contingencies. I do think it is still a little bit of a shortcoming that we don't have, perhaps, the right authorities in place, particularly on the DoD side, to respond to this demand signal from our allies and partners. We do have our traditional security cooperation tools, which we use for a whole set of different purposes. But climate resilience and elevating climate resilience is not one of those legislated purposes. It can be a kind of ancillary benefit. But that does force us to be a bit more creative about how we approach this. We do have one new authority called the Defense Operational Resilience International Cooperation Pilot Program. Bit of a mouthful. But it's currently only authorized at $10 million, which is wholly inadequate to the scale of the challenge in the CENTCOM AOR by itself. Never mind around the world.

Vago Muradian

Why is it— Why is the authority a problem? And what specifically has to be done to fix it? Right? Because that sounds— There's a lot about our system that's totally nutty, but—

Greg Pollock

I think it's— I'm hoping it's simply a matter of evolution and thinking as folks up on Capitol Hill come to understand the degree to which these climate challenges, these resilience issues, these questions around energy security, the degree to which they are now national security problems that implicate both our military and militaries around the world. I think that there will be a shift in perspective over time. I think, as I said, the DORIC program is a kind of experiment to see how much demand there is out there. And I was talking with the panel before we came on today about just reviewing a whole set of really, I think, compelling proposals from Central Command just last night. So I think we're going to have some hard-hitting results from that. We're going to have a fairly profound demand signal from allies and partners in the CENTCOM AOR and elsewhere. But I'm hoping that over time, you know, we get to a point where we're unlocking not just the tens of millions in terms of supporting allies and partners, but the billions that the U.S. does across state, DoD, and elsewhere. Because that's the scale of the challenge.

Vago Muradian

Right. Go, icebreakers—three heavy icebreakers, three medium icebreakers. Go U.S. Coast Guard, Sempter Paratus. I just had to throw that in there.

Jeff—

Methodologically, I have to do that.

How much is this going to cost? Right? I mean, we're looking— We have, right— I mean, for decades, we've gotten into chronic underestimation of both what our needs are and how much that's going to cost, right. We've always assumed we can do this efficiently. We've behaved for a while as if there are no peer competitors that are going to try to, you know, complicate our own narratives, right? I mean, the United States is the world's leading oil producer, it's the world's leading polluter. It's also the country that's trying to be the world's leader in clean energy, right? And that's— You know, and we have a question here from somebody from CENTCOM, and we'll get to that in a minute, about how our adversaries can maybe use that as a weapon against us. How much is this going to cost, reasonably, and is anybody, you know, Chris and Greg or Karen, who's out there budgeting this? I mean, this is the sort of thing I could see, you know, the late, great Andy Marshall and the live, great Jim Baker at ONA, at Office of Net Assessment, looking at this and going like, holy cow, we got to start parking some serious money out there. What's the tab on this? Like, even when you do back of the envelope, what's the numbers that people ought to be preparing for? Because I suspect that's more than an aircraft carrier's worth of cost that lies out there.

Jeff Martini

Yeah, I suspect as well, Vago. Let me give you an unsatisfactory answer, which is probably at the height of my skill set. So, here's why it's going to be—

Vago Muradian

Here's my rather disappointing answer. [laughter]

Jeff Martini

Let me let me preview disappointing you from the outset. Okay. Here's what we grappled with in this study. Usually when we're focused on the impacts of climate hazards, we do it at the installation level. And there you really can project what's going to occur. What is the bill for that? And for this project, we did look at specific operations that are not, in the grand scheme of things, all that expensive: humanitarian assistance, disaster relief, small-scale stabilization operations, NEOs—noncombatant evacuation operations, like those we had to do in Lebanon in 2006. But those costs don't add up to a lot when you're looking at a denominator of $850 billion for an annual Department of Defense budget. But what our project really suggests—here's the unsatisfying but maybe interesting hook here—is it's the uncertainty of what climate stress is going to beget on the international security environment. If we face one more big war, one more interstate war, if we have to contend with Russia having the Northern Sea Route. All these big tectonic changes that you were alluding to at the outset, those could add up to a very large bill. What is that? I would not trust the person who has a point estimate for that. We can give you the point estimate for what a NEO costs or HA/DR operation costs. But what our research wants to say is think bigger. There could be larger changes. We don't know if climate stress will be the defining feature of the international security environment in the next century, but it could be. And you can't calculate that bill.

Vago Muradian

And your point on casual conflict that you guys make is, like, it's going to spiral into a conflict before you even know it, spiraling into a conflict without any formal declaration.

Jeff Martini

And you might not even know that climate stress is what pushed you over the top. I mean, we'll see conflicts in Iraq, for instance, and we're all used to that and don't blink an eye and not really think about how that coincides with extreme heat in Basra. You can think about a conflict in Yemen. And either, you know, say it's all about Iranian support or ethnic and religious divides in the country and not see how climate is also a precipitating factor.

Vago Muradian

Or a food crisis, for example, in Syria that, you know, spirals into something really, really much bigger. That's for you, Andrew [gestures at audience member], being in the audience as you are. Go ahead, Greg and then I want to go to—

Greg Pollock

Yeah, Vago, I just wanted to get in three quick points. Number one, you mentioned, or you asserted, that the United States is the world's largest polluter. In fact, China is now the world's largest emitter of greenhouse gases.

Vago Muradian

I should— I— Pause for a second, and I'd just like— I apologize for that.

Greg Pollock

Yeah, yeah, no, it's an important point just to note the sort of shared responsibility. And this is really the second point. In terms of understanding the potential costs associated with climate adaptation and the security implications of climate change, it really depends on what we do as, sort of, developed economies now. As you alluded before, a lot of the changes to the climate are already baked in, based on existing emissions. But, you know, what we do now will inform the degree to which we are facing the really, kind of potentially catastrophic, or tail risks, in terms of the distribution of risk, over time or not. And so, that's where, obviously, decisions made elsewhere in our government and in fora like the UNFCCC and the COPs really are incredibly important. And staying on those pathways to meeting our Nationally Determined Contributions. But the last point here is, in terms of the cost, every study that I've ever looked at suggests that a dollar spent today dealing with climate adaptation and getting ahead of these risks avoids much more significant costs down the road. So I think that's the kind of key takeaway here, is if we take purposeful action now, we can work to avoid those really profound costs and the sort of immense risks that we might face down the road if we aren't proactive in terms of getting ahead of these challenges.

Vago Muradian

I have a follow up to that in a second. Go ahead.

Karen Sudkamp

Can— I'll— I want to jump in and then I'll go back to you, Vago. In disaster relief, like— FEMA talks about, that a dollar spent now in mitigation or, you know, becoming more adaptive, improving resilience, saves $8 in recovery. And so it's those, you know, $1 versus 8. We're like, okay, that's $7. But as we expand out and you think about that kind of more broadly, that really does begin to add up, as Director Pollock was saying. Like, the investments that we can make now will save a lot of money down the road and will also help buy down the risk of any potential conflict— you know, any potential climate-influenced conflict in the future.

Greg Pollock

I just can't imagine someone being offered, you know, a kind of assured 800% return on investment and saying, no, I don't think I'll take this.

Vago Muradian

Yeah, but this goes to my next question. Members of Congress know that each dollar they cut from a program is going to cost $3 to put back in a program, no matter where it is, whether it's at the State Department, or whether it's at the Defense Department, and they do it all the time. We're not in regular order. We're five months into continuing resolutions. The '24 budget hasn't been approved, and we now have a '25 budget the administration has submitted. How do you build any form of logical consensus on this? Those who are skeptics cannot be shouted at, so you kind of have to meet them where they are. How do you make this case that we need to be doing this? Because it is in our fundamental, you know, it's nakedly in our fundamental interest to help Ukraine. And yet there are members of Congress who refuse to entertain helping Ukraine. Right? You know, Chris, if you want to take a bite and, Greg and Karen and Jeff, you guys want to take a bite at it. And we're going to go into a little bit of a lightning round because there are questions that we've got to take, as well, from the audience.

Chris Backemeyer

Sure. I mean, I think I'll take a look, or, you know, take that on from sort of the perspective of our region where, you know, we're not going to the Hill saying that we need, you know, x million dollars to do this particular climate project necessarily. What we're doing in our region, when you come to development assistance, is we're integrating these climate priorities into priorities that already exist. So economic development has been core to what we needed to do in the Middle East for a long time. And transitioning to clean energy is now a essential part of any sort of real economic development. And so these are things where we can integrate climate priorities to our existing budgets, and we can continue to do that and push our partners ahead and have them— and help them do their own thing. We help build capacity, you know, in governance and other areas. And that's a big part of it. It's not all just technology, but having governments that respond to their citizenry. And so the responses to climate change are conducted in a more equitable way, in a more accountable way, is going to be an important part.

As Jeff mentioned, you know, these drivers of conflict are not just climate, but there are other things that will be paired with climate, whether it is bad governance or whether it is, you know, poor economic growth, you know, or lack of employment, things like that. So we've got to build all those things together. Now, obviously, that's not enough. You know, that's the one thing that is the one takeaway. The money that we have deployed in our region is certainly not enough. It's not enough for today's challenges. Certainly not enough for tomorrow's. I suspect DoD would say the same thing, even though their budget is a little bit bigger than ours. But this is something that, you know, that we need to continue to do.

Our partners know about it. Or partners, you know, you go to Jordan, they know water is their biggest problem. You know, you go to the the COP in Egypt, and the Egyptians know that agriculture and these issues are important to their economy and that the change in both climate and, you know, both temperatures and water and everything else, affect that. So, it's something that we, you know, have, I think, a lot of consensus on when you talk to the people that are in the middle of it.

Vago Muradian

Greg, do you want to

Greg Pollock

Yeah, yeah.

Vago Muradian

weigh in on that. And then you guys, and then I have a great power question, and then we're going to open it up to the floor.

Greg Pollock

Yeah. Thanks, Vago. I appreciate your point about the challenges of operating with these recurring congressional resolutions. While DoD has a large budget, when it's eventually appropriated, the unpredictability in timing really does create huge challenges for the department. And I think it creates questions in terms of our allies and partners wondering about the the predictability and reliability of the United States. And this gets to this question of how are we going to position ourselves as the partner of choice? There is a strategic competition happening out there, not just in the CENTCOM AOR, but all over the world, particularly vis-a-vis China. And so we need to be mindful of how that looks and the ways in which it does hamper us.

I do think it's really important that members of Congress increasingly kind of come to understand that, for the Department of Defense, this is increasingly a kind of core part of our mission. And I think they're hearing it from the adjutant general that head the National Guard units back in their states who are deploying more and more to, whether it's humanitarian assistance, disaster relief operations abroad, or simply wildfire days here in the American West.

And so I think that the sort of CODELs and STAFFDELs that get members of Congress, folks from Capitol Hill, out to see these problems for themselves and talk to allies and partners— I know there's a number of members of Congress who were going up just this upcoming weekend to the Far North American ice sheet to see the ways in which the Arctic is changing. You know, the Arctic is warming at four times the rest of the world. It's becoming a kind of new domain for strategic competition. So I think they are internalizing that. I think more and more of them understand the ways in which climate and the energy transition have these security dimensions to them.

But ultimately, you know, our approach is going to have to be nested in with everything else that's going on elsewhere in our government, you know, led in many ways by our diplomatic colleagues. So, work to do. But, I think, you know, reports like these, they get out there, they get circulating, and they have a credibility coming from the RAND institution that I think will hopefully move the needle in terms of people's understanding of this issue.

Vago Muradian

Yeah. This isn't any other think tank's report. This is a RAND report. You got to take it a lot more seriously. From a great power competition standpoint. Right? And I'm sorry, did you two want to weigh in on that, or can we go to the great power?

Jeff Martini

Please.

Vago Muradian

Great power. And you guys take the first bite, and then they can take the second bite, and then we can get to a couple of questions. What does this look like, and what are, Jeff, some of the things that we need to start doing now? Right? As we saw during the pandemic, every— It was every nation for itself. And even allies were shanking each other in order to be able to get medical supplies. I made a bet that, if I could use the word "shank," I would win a 25 cent bet, so there you are.

Greg Pollock

I owe you.

Vago Muradian

But it's what they were doing, right? And now we're in a resource competition worldwide. There are going to be nations that are going to try to exacerbate it. Curt Groce from— a major from the U.S. Central Command— is saying, okay, well, you know, sort of, you know, is there a potential for adversaries to craft narratives that blame the United States for climate change, seeking to delegitimize U.S. efforts around the world? I think the Chinese try to do that every single day, and so do the Russians, on a regular basis, completely disingenuously sometimes. Even if we were the world's leading polluter for a very long period of time. What does that— How does great power competition unfold in these places all around the world, where you have the Chinese, for example, where it's Nauru or anywhere else in the world, trying to, you know—Fiji—to assert itself across Micronesia, making, thankfully, Australia wake up and take its backyard a little more seriously. What does this look like? And what are the things that Chris and his team and Greg and the team need to be doing in order to sort of better position the United States for that? And I want to go quickly around the room on that.

Jeff Martini

Karen led on this, so I'm going to be very brief and hand it over to her. What I would say is we— when we looked at this issue of how great power competition and regional competition with Iran might play out vis-a-vis climate change, I would say we started from a bit of like a cartoony space in which we thought, oh, maybe upper riparians would try to dam lower riparians or things like that. Those are not the scenarios that resonated with us over time. We saw much more competition in providing climate assistance as opposed to trying to coercively use resources. You know, we got away from these scenarios of Iran damming rivers to, you know, coerce Iraq and got more into the scenarios of, okay, what might China offer the Arab Gulf states as they try to navigate a green energy transition? That actually becomes much more interesting. Russia actually has some great, pretty advanced capabilities in terms of piping water. Desal is very— it is very much linked to civilian nuclear capability, of which, you know, some of our adversaries provide that too. And so I would say my main takeaway is, I started from this more-cartoony place that many people would who haven't looked at this issue and said, okay, maybe it's, you know, the damming of rivers, and got much more into what are people putting on offer for climate assistance? Yeah.

Karen Sudkamp

And, you know, just to build a little bit on that because I generally make it a policy to not disagree with Jeff. And I generally always agree with Jeff.

In terms of, in terms of all of that, you know, going back to the original point that, you know, that we've made a couple of different times is, you know, climate at this point is more of that threat multiplier. And so when we presented a number of climate-influenced conflicts, the subject-matter experts that that we had around the table were like, well, at the end of the day, it's still a interstate conflict or an intrastate conflict. Russia, China still don't want to get involved. They want to make it difficult for the United States. And so, you know, doing whatever they could in the public eye was more interesting or, you know, providing, as Jeff was talking about, economic support and things along those lines.

And then one final thought, I would say. What also came out in that area, particularly from a DoD perspective, I'm sure it would be very similar from the State Department perspective of, for us, the seams, as we call them, along our geographic combatant commands, seem to have, you know, particularly, due to water, whether it was Turkey and the Tigris and Euphrates, you know, Ethiopia and, you know, and the Nile, like those seams, those U.S. government seams along partnerships were, you know, really concerning. And then how can the United States then, you know, if we're friendly with both Turkey and Iraq, for example, and there's a war over water between the two, how does the United States come in, which then can also lead to, you know, Russia and China trying to stir the pot a little bit more.

Vago Muradian

We've got about ten minutes left. Chris and Greg, do you guys want to add anything in terms of how you guys are looking at the strategic competition? And we'll take a question from the room, and then we'll go. And just want to let you guys take a bite at this.

Chris Backemeyer

Just only really quickly to say when you look at, especially in the China context, that, you know, China is playing all sides of this issue, being a major emitter, being a, you know, largest exporter of solar panels and also a huge exporter of oil-fired, gas— or, oil-fired power plants. And so, you know, when you look at climate change, especially when we look at in our region, at least how I do, you know, it's all about the technology. It's all about making the best technology at the best price. And so we compete on telecom and, you know, other technologies with the Chinese. And we will have to make sure that our private sector is doing as well as theirs is. And in many ways, it's harder for us to support our private sector in the same way that they do. So I think that's really the linchpin. Especially in our region that doesn't naturally attract all of this U.S. investment, all this U.S. activity, is we need to help them get better at attracting it for themselves.

Greg Pollock

Yeah. Just briefly, to echo what Chris has said, I do think there is a war of competing narratives out there in terms of who's responsible for climate change and who should pay for some of these adaptation costs. Obviously, this is the purview of, you know, the special envoy for climate in the diplomatic team, first and foremost. But, as Chris alluded, China is certainly trying to seize, sort of, ground on that argument. And to the point around the energy transition, I mean, there is clearly a contest ongoing here to see who can develop the technologies of the future, both in terms of their broad, civilian application as well as for defense purposes. So, I think we need to embrace that challenge. And, you know, my hope is, is that, you know, this ends up having benefits around the world. If there is a contest to innovate in the same way that there was during the space race between Russia and the United— or, the Soviet Union and the United States, I hope too, as we engage in this contest for, you know, the most efficient batteries or the most, you know, cost-effective photovoltaic solar panels, or whatever it may be, that that ends up having benefits around the world as we deal with the climate and energy challenges collectively.

Vago Muradian

I would love to see that happen, even though I think they'll beat us to death with a shovel if they could, unfortunately. Yes, sir.

Robert English

Thank you. Robert English from the University of Southern California. Thank you to all of you, and for the honor of asking the first question. As briefly as I can, we all know that the Russian invasion of Ukraine, unfortunately for Europe's, the EU's energy policies, has meant going back to burning more coal, and of course, nuclear, and in other ways, retreating significantly from their green targets. What's less discussed is that same war's impact on their investment development priorities outside of Europe. And what I have in mind is everything from multi-billion dollar new gas deals with Azerbaijan—not a nice country, by the way, beating up on a small democracy—Algeria, across the Mediterranean, and of course in Africa, right. With Senegal, Mauritania, Angola. What I mean, here, is the EU, or private companies, with the support of the union, fostering or encourage multi-billion dollar new investments in oil extraction and LNG, liquefaction, new terminals, which will not only have whatever immediate fossil fuel carbon impact they will have but will lock those countries into dependance for decades and is a major retreat from the European Union's focus instead on renewables for those countries.

And presumably that will mean not only all the, again, climate impacts. It will also mean that all the oil curse, resource curse, effects—bad governance, corruption—which will be bad for those countries. It produces relatively little employment but a lot of money and corruption. And that can't be good for stability. And ultimately it will mean they will be dependent on fossil fuel industries where they were turning more towards green.

So from the point of view of threat multipliers, I salute, whether it's USAID priorities, whether it's our security assistance that you so well described, Chris and Greg, shifting in a more, you know, sensitive, future-looking direction. But it would seem that what I just described in— also in the CENTCOM and Africa COM areas of responsibility— We're talking billions there, and you're talking millions or tens of millions, and these investments maybe even outweigh— not to blame you, the U.S., for that. But how do you look at that turn as a result of the Russian invasion of Ukraine, a great power conflict. Sorry to go on so long.

Vago Muradian

Whoever wants to grab that.

Greg Pollock

So there's a great deal to address there. I'll try to just kind of hit the high points. So, there's no doubt that the cut off of Russian pipe gas into Europe forced Europe into taking a set of steps that I don't think that they had planned to and sort of surging LNG to the continent in the run up to the European winter. I think on balance the global community did a remarkable job, sort of meeting that demand in ways that didn't result in further, kind of, political and economic destabilization in Europe. I think they had the benefit of a relatively mild winter. But, in addition to the countries you mentioned, the United States also began exporting a greater level of LNG to Europe.

I think not just in Europe, but around the world, we are going to see, in the near term, a continued increase in the amount of of hydrocarbons consumed. And this will advantage, you know, particularly low-cost hydrocarbon producers in the Middle East and elsewhere. But I think both the consuming states as well as the energy-exporting states understand that over the medium term, if you will, there is going to be this transition away from hydrocarbons. And you're right, the biggest risk is sort of locking in those relationships because the capital investment and sort of payback time frames are long on these kinds of facilities.

But I think the European Union—and I'll be talking with the EU actually, next week about these same issues—I think their level of climate and energy ambition remains high. I think they are committed, even in the face of obviously growing political protests around climate, particularly in the agricultural sector. I think there is a sort of a direction of travel in place in Brussels and around Europe that is, I hope, irrevocable. But there's no doubt that the energy transition will be a bumpy road. It will not be linear. And we're going to have to find ways to sort of navigate that. But ultimately, the Europeans, I think, have learned an important lesson about dependency and about the nature of their relationship with Russia in particular. And I think, looking to the future, they're also mindful of not sort of substituting one dependency in terms of hydrocarbons in Russia for a new dependency on sort of clean technology, clean energy supply chains, which are, unfortunately, at this point, very much dominated by China. So that's something we're needing to work together on.

Vago Muradian

Andrew.

Andrew Tabler

Hi. I'll be really quick. A great report. Very interesting.

Vago Muradian

Andrew Tabler, formerly of the State Department. Point.

Andrew Tabler

Yeah. Sorry. Andrew Tabler, formerly of the State Department and the NSC. Glad to be here with this RAND report. Real pleasure working with all of you on this. I got a question for the, not just those that were the authors, but also, Principal Director Pollock and DAS Backemeyer. So, based on my government experience and actually my entire life, actually, if we go way, way back, it's— I always find it really challenging to plan for threats that we even know about, given certain variables, okay? And a lot of what's discussed in here— What's great about this study is it stretches the imagination and thinking from climate change and merges it together with national security thinking. But in the end, it all comes down to planning, which you talked about, and budgets.

So, my question to you, as policy practitioners currently, and you can ask me this later when I'm in— when the roles are reversed, maybe. A lot of the future of climate change is based on modeling, and this report goes into that. And there are different colored lines, and there's the middle ground, there was a worst-case scenario, and so on. Which one do you pick in order to plan the programs that you are outlining, whether it's to help people or to fight, in the future, in the CENTCOM AOR.

And then secondly, then, how does that affect the technology that you choose to address those problems? That could be in terms of the proposed battery-powered fighting vehicles, right. Or it could be in how we provide food or any other kind of assistance. Is it just you wait for the next great idea and suddenly, okay, fusion works so we go in that direction? Or do you just bet fusion doesn't work for a while? And we— and when we don't offline those nuclear power plants, so we have enough baseload, and we continue to burn gas. Sorry to get complicated, but, if you could just answer those and maybe— and Jeff and Karen, you probably have something to say on that as well. Thank you.

Karen Sudkamp

I'll jump in with a with a pithy answer of: You plan for the worst-case scenario and go from there.

Chris Backemeyer

I would only add, I mean, I think that's right. You know, I was going to say to the previous question something similar, which is, you know, my experience in foreign policy is that, you know, you plan for all of these eventualities. You could focus, you know, if I could wave my magic wand, you know, the entire U.S. government and all the governments around the world would be singularly focused on resolving the climate crisis for the safety of our children and their children. But no matter how often you prioritize or plan, there is a new thing that jumps up and distracts your attention and has to because the, you know, the current crisis. So when Russia invaded Ukraine, it was the essential response that certainly derailed some of our efforts, but, I think, you know, could have been much worse had you had people in Europe freezing and really then deciding that, you know, climate's not so important when I can't even, you know, heat my apartment or my house.

And so in the same context, you know, I think, if it were so easy for us to pick, you know, a best- or worst-case scenario, I think we mostly are what we're doing is just trying to integrate as much as we can in the very limited tools that we have, and then trying to inform and build consensus with our partners so that whatever eventuality we have, we have a foundation to work from. But a lot of it, at least in my experience—I'm sure it's similar in yours, Andrew—is that, you know, you are flying a bit by the seat of your pants when these things come up. And, no doubt it will be the same as the climate crisis develops, as conflicts erupt from it, they will as just— They were not going to be just climate. They're going to be climate plus whatever it is that sort of pushes us over the edge. That's my best, probably also unsatisfying, answer.

Vago Muradian

Climate plus.

Jeff Martini

And I'll jump in that there are elements of this problem set that are more certain than others and that are actually pretty uncontroversial.

So, starting with the uncontroversial parts. Even for people who are skeptical of the relationship between manmade emissions and climate change, that only relates to mitigation. That only relates to what we do to mitigate emissions. Even if one was to deny that, you would still want to adapt to what you see on the ground. So that part should be uncontroversial no matter where you come at this problem. There's also parts of the projections that are very certain, and those are the near term. Which is, regardless of your emissions scenarios, much of the near-term climate projections, their consensus, is baked in the cake, and you can see them over the next decade, over the next 15 years. There's not a lot of divide on that.

And then, I would say, there are some win-wins in there that are very low cost, that both Principal Director Pollock and DAS Backemeyer have raised. The water for solar swaps that involved Israel, Jordan, and with UAE financing I think is one of those. And it's shoe-leather diplomacy that made that happen. It's not a big financial— The financial outlay comes from one of our partners, from the United Arab Emirates. This is a very low-cost investment from the United States that, you know, the current environment, current events, make difficult to implement. But it was a huge win, you know, coming out of an earlier COP. And then there are things like that we could do. The DORIC program is great, and it's budget dust. It does not need to be controversial. So I think there are ways ahead, even for those who disagree on some of core issues.

Vago Muradian

Passing a budget shouldn't be controversial either, but alas, here we sit without opposable thumbs. We're very cognizant, Chris, that you've got another three minutes before you've got to get out of here. We have a hard stop at 1610. Greg, is there anything you want to add? And I have two lightning questions to ask before we wrap up.

Greg Pollock

Yeah, just really briefly. Well, I'd ordinarily, from a defense perspective, being fine to agree with Karen's point that we we plan for the worst. I think when it comes to climate change, I'm not even sure we can comprehend the kind of worst-case scenario. As we think about a world kind of mid-century that could conceivably be, you know, three degrees C or more above pre-industrial times. The implications of that are vast. And preparing for that world is extraordinarily challenging. But I think that's where the different scenarios ultimately don't matter, because we are so far kind of off the curve in terms of getting to where we need to be as an international community. Most nations of the world are not on the path to meeting their Nationally Determined Contributions pursuant to to the Paris Climate Agreement and the recent global stocktake. So I think that's where we need to do better. This needs to be a kind of all-hands-on-deck effort. And I think the most important thing we can do, you know, from a defense perspective, in some sense, is doing what we can to support kind of continuity in this space, ensuring that it's not a kind of stop-start effort where we're losing time. And this is where getting to bipartisan consensus that this is a background condition that we need to manage as a matter of national security is really important.

And then to the question as to which technologies to bet on, I think there's a range of both defense and other government programs that are putting bets out there and seeing, you know, kind of what does result in breakthroughs that will have, I think, meaningful application, both for national security and for wider society. So I think that's the right play. There's a lot of terrific activity going on in that regard that we can perhaps talk about offline.

Vago Muradian

And two last questions. Greg, you get one. Karen, you get the other one. Greg, from Ryan A. Brown of RAND. What sort of collaboration is occurring on climate change in conflict between DoD and DHS? And I think he's most-specifically interested in the Arctic, U.S. installations, instability, etc., that that might cost.

Greg Pollock

Yeah. So DHS is, of course, a critical partner for the Department of Defense on a wide range of issues for my office, certainly. First and foremost, the Arctic challenge. You know, Russia has indicated that it's intent on potentially, you know, militarizing what they call the Northern Sea Route. This is, of course, of significant concern to all of the other Arctic states, the seven Arctic states, which, by the way, with Sweden's recent accession, are all now within NATO. Which is terrific and enables greater collaboration on these issues, both within NATO and beyond. But the Coast Guard plays a really critical role in all of this. It was the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy that was up above the Arctic, including in the Russian Arctic, you know, a few months ago. So they're a really kind of integral partner in all of this. Of course, DHS also has a critical role to play with respect to issues on the southern border, which other parts of our office work on. But there's a climate nexus there, too, in terms of outmigration from the Northern Triangle that perhaps we can talk about at some other RAND event another time.

Vago Muradian

Okay. And, Karen, you get the last one and you got 30 seconds. Should policymakers—this is an anonymous question— should policymakers anticipate the same trends the RAND team saw in CENTCOM everywhere in the world? Do similar studies need to be done for other geographic regions?

Karen Sudkamp

Yes. We should do more studies for all of the regions. [laughter] I'm not joking. I think it would help us understand and help develop broader interagency strategies and plans. You know, as we've talked today, we need to, you know— that integration is the best way moving forward to make sure that we include all elements of national power.

Vago Muradian

Absolutely agree. Well said. And everybody, go to the RAND website where the climate and conflict reports all reside. Thanks very much, Karen, Chris, Jeff, Greg. Absolute pleasure. We could have gone another two hours with this conversation and it would have still been fascinating. Thanks so very much for joining us, and honored to be here, Katharina. Thank you, Barry, wherever you are. Thank you. Thank you. And we'll see you again soon. Thanks so much.

Karen Sudkamp

Thank you.

Chris Backemeyer

Thank you.

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