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Andrew Holland of the American Security Project explains how climate change impacts national security.

New Argonne center brings together national security and climate change

by Luke Rague
Apr 30, 2014

Natural disasters and their impact on national security will be the focus of a new center at the Argonne National Laboratory.

Argonne announced Wednesday the creation of the Center for Integrated Resiliency Analyses, a research center tasked with investigating how the changing global environment will affect our ability to respond properly to and mitigate damage from serious natural disasters and crises.

“The concept of national security has undergone very significant changes,” said John Hummel, director of the new center. “Now we recognize that national security can be impacted by economic factors and also environmental factors.”

Hummel said the center is an effort to bring together Argonne's environmental and energy expertise as well as computing power, to determine the most effective ways to respond to growing natural disasters.

“Improving infrastructure is one thing. You also want to improve what we call 'social infrastructure,' how do people work together, how do they react, and then make sure public officials and first responders are all cooperating in an integrated fashion,” said Hummel.

The announcement was made at a conference put together by the Chicago Council on Science and Technology, bringing together local, regional and national organizations that are concerned with the national vulnerability to the climate crisis.

“We don't care about polar bears, we don't care about tree frogs – we care about people,” said Andrew Holland of the American Security Project (ASP), an organization that presented at the convention and is heavily involved in spreading awareness of national security issues linked to climate change. “Climate change is a threat multiplier.”

The public policy group says it tries to steer clear of climate change politics in Washington. It is made up of mostly retired military personnel, and the website lists Secretary of State John Kerry and Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel as former members.

“This is cutting edge – cutting edge – 19th century science,” said Holland as he moved past the science of climate change to get to what his group sees as the real issues.

Holland and retired Marines Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, the group's CEO, spoke to representatives of local and regional organizations about what they termed the real and quickly approaching consequences of climate change. Populations in coastal regions will be displaced in the thousands, Cheney said, access to fresh water will cause bloody conflicts, rising sea levels will flood US military installations worldwide and major storms, such as the tornadoes that swept through the country on Tuesday, will impact millions of US citizens. Cheney said that whether or not these disasters are linked to climate change, the US has a responsibility to react responsibly.

“Who was the head responder to [Typhoon Haiyan] in the Philippines? It was the United States,” said Cheney, adding that the US often takes this role because it is the only one with the ability.

Argonne and the American Security Project have a shared vision of the future. Holland and Hummel said they are hoping their efforts will bring about change in the preparedness of the nation. They said want to prepare for the inevitable, prevent the avoidable, and plan for calamity.