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Research Questions

  1. How could the UK MOD organise its thinking around climate change as a security driver; as part of resilience; and as a factor in risk, threat and opportunity assessments, as well as operations planning?
  2. How should the UK MOD assess and respond to opportunities that climate change presents for the UK's adversaries?
  3. What is the shortlist of the immediate key dilemmas in strategic areas of interest?
  4. What additional measures might be undertaken to improve coherence, and leverage skills across government for the benefit of Defence and in compliance with UK policies?

This study explores the effects of climate change on UK defence and security. It sought to: firstly, understand the strategic defence and security implications of climate change on UK MOD activities; secondly, develop a conceptual framework to help decision makers map a range of impacts of climate change in relation to the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD)'s strategic objectives; and thirdly, produce recommendations to support the UK MOD in mitigating risks and adapting the challenges and opportunities presented by climate change. While recognising these wider security implications, the study focuses specifically on the strategic implications of climate change for UK MOD activities in relation to the Defence Lines of Development (DLODs): concepts and doctrine, training, personnel, infrastructure, equipment, information, organisation, logistics and interoperability.

Key Findings

  • There appears to be limited defence-specific information-gathering on the impacts of climate change on the MOD's activities.
  • Climate change could increase the need for collaborative decision making, resource-sharing and communication across key stakeholders.
  • Concepts and doctrine do not consistently acknowledge climate change as a security driver or incorporate climate change as part of national security threat assessments.
  • Military infrastructure in the UK and overseas may become increasingly vulnerable to climate events, and degradation of civilian infrastructure (e.g. energy grids, water systems) may also indirectly disrupt MOD activities.
  • Rising temperatures and other climate-related developments could impede the performance of military equipment.


  • Develop a tool that enables the MOD to develop robust policy in response to climate change.
  • Leverage resources across government, civil society, emergency services and industry to coordinate on climate change-related issues.
  • Provide leadership on climate change issues at the strategic, operational and tactical levels.
  • Assess the resilience of Defence Estate infrastructure relative to the future operating environment.
  • Increase the capacity and resilience of equipment relative to the future operating environment.
  • Leverage research and innovation to mitigate risk.

Table of Contents

  • Chapter One


  • Chapter Two

    Implications of climate change for the MOD

  • Chapter Three

    Conceptual framework

  • Chapter Four


  • Annex A

    Research methods

Research conducted by

The research described in this report was commissioned by the UK Ministry of Defence (MOD) and conducted by RAND Europe.

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