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Climate Change Presents Challenge to Security


The island village of Kivalina, an Alaska Native community of 400 people the White House chose to highlight as a community at risk from rising sea levels.

“The impacts of climate change can exacerbate resource competition, threaten livelihoods, and increase the risk of instability and conflict, especially in places already undergoing economic, political, and social stress.”

When it comes to the earth’s climate, the definition of “normal” has changed dramatically over the past 30 years. “Nineteen of the 20 warmest years in recorded history have occurred in the past two decades. And this year,” said Secretary of State John Kerry, “is on track to be the warmest of all.”

Speaking at a university in Virgina, Secretary Kerry warned that weather extremes once considered to be rare are becoming the norm. And what’s more, they are just one facet of global climate change, which is increasingly impacting every aspect of human life, from health care to economic activity to human migration, all over the world.

Not least of all, climate change presents a challenge to our security. “Consider that almost every country with land borders shares some international river basins with its neighbors. ... If the water starts to disappear, and climate change is expected to significantly alter both access to and the availability of fresh water, imagine the tensions that can rise,” said Secretary Kerry.

“The impacts of climate change can exacerbate resource competition, threaten livelihoods, and increase the risk of instability and conflict, especially in places already undergoing economic, political, and social stress.”

Instability and strife anywhere can be a threat to stability everywhere. It recognizes no borders. And that is why all members of the community of nations must work together to mitigate climate change, said Secretary of State Kerry. And in less than a month, our leaders will have the opportunity to hammer out an effective agreement as they meet at the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Paris, France, said Secretary Kerry.

“I’m not going to tell you that a global climate agreement is going to be the silver bullet that eliminates the threat posed by climate change. But the truth is we won’t eliminate it without an agreement in Paris,” he said.

“We have a moral responsibility to protect the future of our nation and our world. That is our charge. That is our duty. And for our ship, for our shipmates, all of us, and for the generations that follow in their footsteps, we have to get this right.”

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