Joshua Busby is an assistant professor at the LBJ School of Public Affairs at the University of Texas at Austin. He wrote an essay for the Washington Post based on a special report he wrote for the Council on Foreign Relations. The main point of the essay was that “homeland security will require readiness against climate change.” This is not simply to prevent the occurence of many coastal Hurricane Katrina-like disasters, but also because the devastating effects of climate change in many poor countries will lead to the kind of unrest that will require costly military intervention by the U.S. and its allies.
…scientists tell us that poor countries in the developing world, particularly in Africa and Asia, are the most vulnerable. They are likely to be hit hardest by climate change, potentially putting hundreds of thousands of people on the move from climate change-related storms, floods and droughts. In such circumstances, outside militaries may be called on to prevent humanitarian tragedies and broader disorder.
Busby is strongly advocating the position that we should be taking protective and preventative action now, rather than waiting until the impacts are upon us.
As Hurricane Katrina showed, investments in risk reduction are likely to be much cheaper than disaster response. I support substantial investment in risk reduction: coastal defenses, building codes, emergency response plans, and evacuation strategies, among other measures. I also recommend enhanced vulnerability assessments to know where the risks are.
People who resist taking preventative action tend to point to the possibility that such actions will cost money and may be unnecessary, but more arguments are being made lately for designing “no regrets” measures that will provide benefits whether or not they turn out to have prevented damage. Here are Busby’s main concrete recommendations:
Internationally, developing countries need tens of billions, yet the U.S. government has done very little to support this agenda. I recommend several activities to help developing countries prepare for climate change, including $100 million (over several years) for military-to-military environmental security workshops. I recommend another $100 million per year to support an African Risk Reduction Pool, a common fund from which Defense, State, and other agencies would draw from to support security in Africa. These expenditures would be part of a broader international risk reduction effort that I argue should be on par with the president’s five-year, $15 billion emergency plan for AIDS relief.
Adaptation alone, he maintains, will not solve this looming problem. We must reduce greenhouse gas emissions significantly around the planet, which will require much smarter diplomacy than we’ve been practicing lately.