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AIAA SPACE 2009 Conference & Exposition                                                                                   ...
countries, which lack both scientific resources and economic infrastructure to reduce their           vulnerabilities to p...
This will force some rethinking, to put it mildly. We have spent the last several decades configuring our securityestablis...
A. CNA Corporation: National Security and the Threat of Climate Change 10     The CNA study was led by a military advisory...
Addressing the national security community, Busby agrees with the first recommendation of the CNA studycalling for integra...
instability and/or changing strategic picture that will spring from all of the above. Simply put, our        response need...
the only one in that part of the world. 27 Another site that may be threatened is the Kwajalein Atoll in the         Pacif...
investigations and ongoing operations. Collectively, Europe is seeking to be the uncontested world leader in Earthobservat...
and instability on a global scale, the nation should be preparing to safeguard its space systems against these threatswith...
13     Kurt M. Campbell et al., “The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of     Glo...
( The     need to move from research to...
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Climate change threats to national security


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Numerous recent reports have identified climate change as a national security threat,
but none have discussed the implications for the operation of space systems, or provided
illumination on the role of space capabilities in climate change mitigation and adaptation.
This paper suggests that the space community needs to engage immediately in this
discussion, and that space capabilities can make substantial contributions in the short and
long term.

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Climate change threats to national security

  1. 1. AIAA SPACE 2009 Conference & Exposition AIAA 2009-649714 - 17 September 2009, Pasadena, California Climate Change Threats to National Security and the Implications for Space Systems James A. Vedda, Ph.D. * Numerous recent reports have identified climate change as a national security threat, but none have discussed the implications for the operation of space systems, or provided illumination on the role of space capabilities in climate change mitigation and adaptation. This paper suggests that the space community needs to engage immediately in this discussion, and that space capabilities can make substantial contributions in the short and long term. I. Introduction Climate change effects constitute an unprecedented threat to global security and to military capabilities and readiness. There have been numerous government and think-tank studies and seminars that have identified threats and advocated urgent attention. These reports generally do not question whether these threats will manifest themselves; rather, they attempt to assess how quickly and severely they will do so. The recent studies have focused on the likelihood that climate change will be a threat multiplier, exacerbating problems in parts of the world already suffering from political and economic instability. This is widely recognized by influential components of the U.S. national security establishment. The Obama administration’s Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, told a Senate committee in February 2009, “The impacts [of climate change] will worsen existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions.” 1 Although recent studies have considered operational problems and possible solutions for U.S. forces overseas – primarily related to logistical requirements such as fuel supplies – they have not directly addressed threats to U.S. government space operations or the mitigation and adaptation options available to the space sector. This paper summarizes the relevant findings of reports on the national security implications of climate change and seeks to stimulate discussion on the roles and requirements of the space community, which can be grouped into two categories: • Identification and mitigation of direct threats to space operations. The space community needs to assess the threats of disruption and destruction at each of its major facilities and devise mitigation strategies. • Development of space systems for science and applications that contribute to prevention, mitigation, or adaptation to climate change. In addition to ensuring its own continuity of operations, the space community needs to determine how it can help provide solutions for the nation and the world. II. Historical Lessons and their Limits A. Awakening the National Security Establishment The current interest in climate change within the U.S. national security community has its roots in a 2002 National Research Council (NRC) report on abrupt climate change. Noting that abrupt change (i.e., in the time span of about a decade) is known to have occurred numerous times in Earth’s history, the report highlights worst-case consequences and makes recommendations directed at the scientific community regarding data gathering, modeling, and other research requirements. However, its final recommendation has implications far beyond the scientific community: Research should be undertaken to identify “no-regrets” measures to reduce vulnerabilities and increase adaptive capacity at little or no cost. No-regrets measures may include low-cost steps to: slow climate change; improve climate forecasting; slow biodiversity loss; improve water, land, and air quality; and develop institutions that are more robust to major disruptions. Technological changes may increase the adaptability and resiliency of market and ecological systems faced by the prospect of damaging abrupt climate change. Research is particularly needed to assist poor * 5853 Governor’s Hill Drive, Alexandria, VA 22310. The views presented in this paper are the author’s alone. 1Copyright © 2009 by James A. Vedda. Published by the American Institute of Aeronautics and Astronautics, Inc., with permission.
  2. 2. countries, which lack both scientific resources and economic infrastructure to reduce their vulnerabilities to potential abrupt climate changes. 2 The NRC report caught the attention of Andrew Marshall, who then headed the Pentagon’s Office of NetAssessment, part of the Office of the Secretary of Defense (OSD). Concerned about what these developments couldmean for Department of Defense (DoD) missions and requirements, Marshall ordered a study that looked at abruptclimate change from a DoD perspective. The report for OSD, released in October 2003, raised some controversy dueto its near-apocalyptic scenario even though the authors made clear that they did not consider it the most likelyscenario. In language reminiscent of RAND Corporation nuclear war studies four decades earlier, the stated purposeof the report was to “imagine the unthinkable.” The OSD report explored the unstable geopolitical environment that could result from simultaneous worldwidecrises in agriculture, fresh water availability, energy supplies, and severe weather events. Perhaps the mostsignificant underlying factor identified in the report is that “Unlikely alliances could be formed as defense prioritiesshift and the goal is resources for survival rather than religion, ideology, or national honor.” 3 In the time since these reports appeared, there has been growing recognition of the climate change threat in thenational security community. The issue has spread beyond scientific and environmental advocacy groups and hasestablished its relevance to the agencies of the government responsible for deterring threats. Although this is seen asa new threat facing the U.S. national security establishment, it is one that human societies have faced throughouthistory.B. Climate Change Threats Throughout History There are numerous examples in military history in which the outcome of a major battle was determined by theweather. To highlight just three: Ottoman Sultan Suleyman was poised to take Vienna in 1529, an outcome thatcould have changed the face of that part of Europe in ways that could still be evident today. But heavy rains thatsummer forced him to leave behind his fortress-busting siege engines and to delay the battle until late in the season,at which time he was unable to conquer the city. 4 Early in the American Revolution, George Washington’s armywas defeated in the Battle of Long Island and was being surrounded by British ships on one side and British troopson the other. Had they been captured, that could have been the end of the revolution. They escaped thanks to highwinds that hindered the maneuvering of the ships, followed by a thick fog that prevented observation of theirretreat. 5 Napoleon was forced to retreat from Moscow in 1812 with only about 22,000 of his half million men. Hisarmy was routed by frigid temperatures that came unexpectedly early that year. 6 Weather undoubtedly can have profound effects on individual events, but what about the security and ultimatefate of whole societies? Many researchers have presented evidence showing that climate change frequently has beena major contributor (though not the only factor) in the downfall of regional civilizations. Several of these cases arepresented in Jared Diamond’s book Collapse, 7 including the pre-Columbian disappearance of the Anasazi in theAmerican southwest (Chapter 4, pp. 136-156), the downfall of the Maya in Central America (Chapter 5, pp. 157-177), and the demise of the Norse colony in Greenland after almost 500 years as the climate turned colder, causingthe failure of crops and livestock (Chapters 7 & 8, pp. 211-276). Historian Geoffrey Parker links climate change to the remarkable number of “major revolts and revolutions” onfive continents in the middle of the seventeenth century, which he tallies at 49 between 1635 and 1666. 8 Theaverage duration of these conflicts, by Parker’s reckoning, is approximately seven years, greater than the average forany other century in the past six hundred years. Historians refer to this period as “The General Crisis.” A broadrange of human and natural records from this era attest to a widespread unfavorable turn in climatic conditions thatbrought an extended period of severe winters, cooler and shorter growing seasons, droughts, and floods. Certainly,these were not the sole causes of the record number of failed governments and insurrections during this period, butParker points out that the “extreme weather anomalies triggered or fatally exacerbated major political upheavals” bycausing shortages of food, water, and other essentials and by increasing the misery of the masses through harshweather and the proliferation of disease.C. What’s Different Today? As in earlier eras of human history, we can expect that prolonged shortages of living essentials and persistentsevere weather conditions will provoke unrest and cross-border migration, possibly on a large scale. In other words,“resource wars” are nothing new. However, their importance on the world stage, and in the memories of everyoneliving in the developed world today, receded as ideological conflicts sparked by fascism and communism dominatedthe 20th century. In the 21st century, we may find ourselves returning to the resource conflicts that have been moreprevalent throughout human existence. 2
  3. 3. This will force some rethinking, to put it mildly. We have spent the last several decades configuring our securityestablishment to confront ideological foes with large standing armies and modern tools of war. In the future, we arelikely to find that our most dangerous challenges come from the forces of nature, the mass migration of disruptedpeoples, and insurgencies fueled in part by the unmet needs of unstable societies. In other words, climate changeintroduces its own variants of asymmetric threats. All of this is set to take place at a time when the Earth is moredensely populated and has a greater capacity for generating human casualties, property damage, and environmentalharm than in previous centuries. Efforts to adapt our security system to this new threat environment must recognize that climate change threatsare different from those usually associated with military confrontation, and must be viewed in a much longertimeframe. Among the variables to be considered are temperature changes, both averages and the extremes;increasing or decreasing precipitation; frequency and severity of storms; and sea level rise, which has multipleconsequences, including encroachment on land, inundation of fresh water supplies, and amplification of storm surgeeffects. The interaction of these variables constitutes a major threat – or perhaps more accurately, a threat system –different from any other: • It is not coming from a conventional (human) adversary. As a result, it cannot be deterred or fought by conventional means, such as building weapons, installing traditional early warning systems, or employing diplomacy. Rather, deterrence requires technological breakthroughs coupled with alteration of societal practices and individual human behaviors worldwide. • It is happening slowly, spanning many years or decades. The rate and duration of change are not precisely known, nor is it known whether a tipping point will be reached that causes abrupt change. The slow, unpredictable pace and multiplicity of probable causes prompt skeptical observers to conclude that the changes are not threatening or cannot be affected by the actions of humans. • Technological society has never experienced abrupt climate change, so the failure modes of societal coping mechanisms are not known. Even if climate change progresses gradually, the ultimate magnitude of the threat is unknown and response options are complicated by the fact that it is occurring all over the world at the same time. The exact locations and manifestations of climate effects can only be estimated based on imperfect models, so for much of the world the effects will be known for certain only after they occur. III. Review of Recent Reports Climate change has been studied for many years with regard to its impacts on weather patterns, water resources,food production, disease vectors, and other concerns. Although there is no question that climate change is occurringand that it will have measurable effects on human society – as it has throughout the history of civilization – themagnitude and timing of these effects are not precisely known, and the evidence to date has not been sufficient toconvince everyone that human activity has been a contributory factor. Addressing the human role, a June 2008report on weather and climate extremes by the U.S. Climate Change Science Program stated that “It is wellestablished through formal attribution studies that the global warming of the past 50 years is due primarily tohuman-induced increases in heat-trapping gases.” The report also offered this warning: In the future, with continued global warming, heat waves and heavy downpours are very likely to further increase in frequency and intensity. Substantial areas of North America are likely to have more frequent droughts of greater severity. Hurricane wind speeds, rainfall intensity, and storm surge levels are likely to increase. The strongest cold season storms are likely to become more frequent, with stronger winds and more extreme wave heights. 9 These expected effects of climate change have consequences that can include crop failures, flooding, loss offresh water supplies, large-scale destruction of property, and the spread of diseases. Worldwide, such crises cancontribute to political instability, especially within weak or failed states, and to international conflict stemming fromresource scarcity and cross-border human migration. Even if direct effects on the U.S. homeland are manageable,the resulting global repercussions will be detrimental to U.S. interests and are likely to require substantialhumanitarian and/or military intervention. At the same time, U.S. forces around the world will need to contend withchanging environmental conditions affecting their facilities and areas of responsibility. The significance of such developments is recognized by influential components within the national securityestablishment. Noteworthy think-tank studies in 2007 came from CNA Corporation, the Center for Strategic &International Studies (CSIS), and the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR). Additionally, the U.S. Army WarCollege sponsored a symposium on the subject the same year, and its Strategic Studies Institute published theproceedings in May 2008. Meanwhile, the National Intelligence Council (NIC) conducted its own review, anunclassified version of which was presented in testimony to Congress in June 2008. 3
  4. 4. A. CNA Corporation: National Security and the Threat of Climate Change 10 The CNA study was led by a military advisory board of 11 retired generals and admirals from all of the U.S.armed services. Many came to the group as skeptics of climate change, but became believers as a result of thestudy. 11 They found that their experience in thinking about and planning for worst-case scenarios was directlyapplicable to this topic. They also knew that commanders operating in threat situations do not have the luxury ofwaiting until they have 100% complete information before they act. Although the report does not speak directly to the role of the space sector, all five of its recommendationsconvey applicable guidance for the requirements and operations of space systems: 1. The national security consequences of climate change should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies. 2. The U.S. should commit to a stronger national and international role to help stabilize climate change at levels that will avoid significant disruption to global security and stability. 3. The U.S. should commit to global partnerships that help less developed nations build the capacity and resiliency to better manage climate impacts. 4. The Department of Defense should enhance its operational capability by accelerating the adoption of improved business processes and innovative technologies that result in improved U.S. combat power through energy efficiency. 5. The Department of Defense should conduct an assessment of the impact on U.S. military installations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other projected climate change impacts over the next 30 to 40 years. The report recognizes that severe weather and worsening environmental conditions will be detrimental to theperformance and readiness of military operations at home and abroad. Additionally, the effects of climate changewill be felt simultaneously by allies, potential adversaries, and unstable governments around the globe. DeployedU.S. forces could find that their capabilities are degraded at precisely the time that they are required to be moreengaged in stability operations. To date, the U.S. military has made substantial strides in recommendation #4 by adopting new practices thatimprove energy efficiency at U.S. bases and in deployed units. 12 The rest of the recommendations, as applied tospace systems, describe the critical needs that this paper seeks to highlight.B. CSIS: The Age of Consequences 13 The CSIS study, a partnership effort with the Center for a New American Security, can be viewed as a follow-up to the CNA report and the OSD report on abrupt climate change. It was authored by a team of 11 experts indefense, intelligence, and foreign policy. Like their CNA counterparts, the group emphasized the threat multipliereffect of climate change, noting that “No precedent exists for a disaster of this magnitude – one that affects entirecivilizations in multiple ways simultaneously... The only comparable experience for many in the group wasconsidering what the aftermath of a U.S.-Soviet nuclear exchange might have entailed during the height of the ColdWar.” Like the 2003 OSD report, the authors chose to illustrate their points using scenarios. Instead of a singlescenario as in the OSD report, the CSIS group created three increasingly grave scenarios: “expected” and “serious”over the next 30 years, and “catastrophic” over the next 100 years. These are quite frightening, particularly the lattertwo, and should not be used as bedtime stories for small children. But this grave tone is appropriate for a reportdesigned to warn of the urgency of the situation and present some serious thinking about its implications. The reporthas no list of recommendations, but emphasizes that “The overwhelming message is that early steps to limit ormitigate climate change are essential because longer-term efforts to adapt or anticipate may not be possible... climatechange has the potential to be one of the greatest national security challenges that this or any other generation ofpolicymakers is likely to confront.”C. CFR: Climate Change and National Security 14 Dr. Joshua Busby, a professor at the University of Texas at Austin, was the sole author of the Council onForeign Relations report, which came out the same month as the CSIS report. The findings and recommendationsare directed at the U.S. government more broadly – including the Executive Office of the President and numerousexecutive agencies – but still provide some points applicable to national security agencies and to this paper. Taking amultifaceted approach, the author recommends strong policies that “will simultaneously address problems inmultiple domains. Policies should address climate security challenges but could also help reduce greenhouse gasemissions, shore up energy security, or provide economic benefits.” 4
  5. 5. Addressing the national security community, Busby agrees with the first recommendation of the CNA studycalling for integration of climate security into national security strategy, and notes that “emerging environmentalharms” should be factored into the planning and operations of the regional combatant commands. He also advocatescreation of a new position of Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security. A key point in this report that has been echoed by many others (including the NRC 2002 study describedearlier) is that “The United States should prioritize so-called no-regrets policies, those that it would not regret havingpursued even if the consequences of climate change prove less severe than feared.” As examples, he cites protectionof coastal areas, which are subjected to severe storms and flooding even in the absence of climate change, and cost-effective military-to-military environmental security initiatives like those that already have yielded a variety ofbenefits in the Persian Gulf and central Asia. Certainly, these examples merely scratch the surface of possible no-regrets actions.D. National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to2030 15 The U.S. intelligence community does not conduct climate change research, so this study is largely derivative ofthe work of other U.S. agencies and respected sources outside the government, including the studies describedabove. Intelligence community interest in the subject stems from its need to track and anticipate changes in thestatus of individual nations and regions of interest. Dr. Thomas Fingar, chairman of the National IntelligenceCouncil, explained to a congressional committee in June 2008 that: From an intelligence perspective, the present level of scientific understanding of future climate change lacks the resolution and specificity we would like for detailed analysis at the state level. Most of the IPCC [Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change] material is based upon an understanding of how the climate may change at the global level. We require improved and better validated regional and local models (accounting for regional and local processes) of strategic climate change, particularly models that provide details on hydrological consequences and changes in the frequency and intensity of extreme events. In recent years, the intelligence community has explored new ways of looking toward the long-term future, 16and climate change is a factor that can’t be ignored. Fingar notes in his testimony that NIC interest in studyingclimate change began in 2006 and received encouragement from congressional language in spring 2007. Thereremain skeptics in the Congress who either deny that there is a climate change problem or don’t believe it is anappropriate concern of intelligence agencies. 17 Nonetheless, the intelligence community’s call for better modelingand more precise information demonstrates that climate change has become a key issue in this sector of the nationalsecurity establishment.E. Abundant Attention and Consideration of Next Steps Climate change security threats are the subject of a growing number of articles, reports, seminars, andcongressional hearings. The threats are widely recognized internationally, as these few examples will attest: TheEuropean Commission released a paper in March 2008 that reiterates the concerns discussed in the reportssummarized above. 18 In Germany, the Federal Foreign Office held an international conference on the subject inNovember 2008 that went beyond risk assessment to address the roles and technological options for the internationalcommunity. 19 The United Nations Security Council held its first debate on the security implications of climatechange in April 2007, with a large majority of the more than 50 participating countries agreeing that the SecurityCouncil was an appropriate venue for such discussions. 20 African nations believe they will be on the front lines of aproblem that was caused not by themselves but by the behaviors of developed countries. 21 In the U.S., the effort to move beyond risk assessment and address roles and responsibilities has begun as well.For example, a two-day colloquium in March 2007 titled “Global Climate Change: National Security Implications”featured 30 speakers and produced a proceedings volume published by the U.S. Army’s Strategic Studies Institute inMay 2008. 22 In addition to recognizing and characterizing the climate change threat, the colloquium panelsaddressed human security factors, such as disease vectors and mass migration; the conditions U.S. security forcesmay face; the roles of diplomacy, the private sector, and individual U.S. citizens; planning, early warning, andgovernance; energy challenges; and the future of civil support and other peace operations. Like all of the reportshighlighted here, there was no mention of the challenges, roles, or responsibilities of the space sector. As the editor of the colloquium’s proceedings astutely noted in her introduction: Climate change, as a security problem, needs to be addressed at multiple levels. First, there is the root problem – the changing climate. Second, there is the human misery it will engender – we are talking of such things as poverty, disease, displacement, and social inequality. Third, there is the 5
  6. 6. instability and/or changing strategic picture that will spring from all of the above. Simply put, our response needs to encompass at least three things: slowing down the rate of climate change and preparing to adapt to changes that cannot be avoided; taking steps to alleviate social distress; and preparing to cope with potential conflicts. 23 [emphasis added]From this statement and the reports reviewed earlier, we can begin to derive the implications and roles for the community. IV. Implications for Space Systems Satellites fly far above terrestrial weather and climate conditions, which makes them excellent observers butdoesn’t make them immune to climate concerns. They need support from the ground – launch sites to provide themwith access to space and facilities around the world to monitor and control them and put their capabilities to use.Given these conditions, there are two major roles for the space community in addressing climate change. The firstrole, and the one of most concern to the national security space sector in both the near and long term, isidentification of direct threats to its ability to function, leading to adaptation and mitigation efforts. The second role,primarily the responsibility of the civil space sector but important for national security as well, is development ofspace systems for science and applications that contribute to prevention, adaptation, and mitigation for the nationand the world, thereby helping to minimize the destabilizing effects of climate change. The relevant findings andrecommendations of the studies discussed above can help define the approach that is needed from the perspective ofspace operations.A. Continuity of Space Operations Response to climate change is complicated by the fact that it does not simply produce a single consequence(e.g., a rise in average temperature) that prompts an easily defined response (e.g., increased use of air conditioning).It is not limited to one or a few locations, all experiencing the same effects; rather, an array of effects will be feltworldwide to varying degrees. This is why space system operators should heed the guidance offered by the CNACorp. study and echoed by others that the DoD should conduct an assessment of the impact on U.S. militaryinstallations worldwide of rising sea levels, extreme weather events, and other projected climate change impactsover the next 30 to 40 years. An obvious example of a potential threat to space systems is sea level rise and its possible effects on coastalareas that are home to launch sites. Current estimates project a sea level rise of 0.5 m to 1.2 m by 2100, with thepossibility of several more meters beyond that time. 24 The amount predicted for this century may not seem likemuch, but a 1-meter rise would put 640 km2 of U.S. territory under water, and a total of 2,223 km2 worldwide. 25Even if this doesn’t cause launch pads to sink below the waves, there are other effects to be considered. The rate ofcoastal erosion would accelerate, and storm surges would be more damaging, especially if storms become morefrequent and more severe. 26 Under these circumstances, launch schedule disruptions would become more likely andmay require more costly and time-consuming repairs. Sites around the world may have to deal with more than disrupted schedules and higher operating costs. As athreat multiplier for political and social instability or a motivation for mass human migration, climate change coulddegrade security at overseas ground stations upon which the U.S. depends, or even force them to close. A climate threat assessment of space facilities should employ a multifaceted approach that will encompass thediverse array of possible threats from the forces of nature and the failure of technologies and institutions. Theassessment should not be limited to obvious targets like coastal launch pads and their associated support facilities.Other vital and vulnerable components of the space enterprise include locations that perform the following services: • Design, development, and manufacture of space systems. A major portion of the industrial base for these activities is concentrated on the U.S. east and west coasts. • Tracking, telemetry, and control of spacecraft during launch and throughout a spacecraft’s mission. Many facilities that perform these functions are not on U.S. territory, and some are in areas highly vulnerable to climate change effects. • Recovery operations for returning spacecraft. For example, NASA currently plans to employ retrieval at sea as the primary recovery mode for the Orion capsule. • Space situational awareness. The U.S. Space Surveillance Network has optical and radar tracking sites around the world. One of these sites is Diego Garcia, an Indian Ocean island identified as threatened in the CNA Corp. report because its highest point is only a few feet above sea level. The CNA authors highlighted this site because it is a logistics hub for U.S. and British forces in the Middle East, but failed to acknowledge the presence of a Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance (GEODSS) facility, 6
  7. 7. the only one in that part of the world. 27 Another site that may be threatened is the Kwajalein Atoll in the Pacific Ocean, where a U.S. Army facility conducts near-Earth and deep space surveillance, as well as missile test functions, on land that has a maximum elevation of 26 feet above sea level. 28 Concurrent with efforts to do a thorough assessment of climate threats to the space enterprise, the U.S. shouldintegrate climate change into national strategies and the operational planning of regional combatant commands.Users of space services should be aware of the short- and long-term threats to those services so they can makecontingency plans accordingly. The planning effort should prioritize “no-regrets” policies and solutions – improvedpractices and technologies that yield benefits in reliability, redundancy, capacity, and cost reduction even in theabsence of disruptions caused by climate change.B. Space Systems and Global Solutions In addition to ensuring its own continuity of operations, the space community needs to determine how it cancontribute to the prevention or mitigation of climate change effects for the nation and the world. This need isreflected in the studies highlighted above with recommendations such as: • A national commitment to climate stabilization efforts. • Global partnerships to help less developed nations. • Improved fidelity of regional and local models. • Steps to alleviate social distress. • Adaptation to changes that can’t be avoided. Appropriate actions by the space community are obvious in some cases, not so obvious in others. Also, theoptions available will depend on the timeframe. Some can be implemented almost immediately, others could takemuch longer because they depend on technological advances or the evolution of the legal and regulatoryenvironment. In the near term, space systems will continue performing the functions they have been doing for many years:identifying and monitoring weather and climate changes, attempting to determine the extent and rate of specificchanges, and providing data to improve computer models. These are important observational functions – we wouldknow far less about weather and climate change today in the absence of space systems, possibly missing keyvariations, patterns, and the clues to their causes. Fortunately, highly capable U.S. space systems are complementedby strong and growing programs in Europe and Asia and facilitated by organizational mechanisms for applying thedata to national and global research efforts. The global proliferation of remote sensing satellite systems is allowing space to contribute more than ever toalleviating social distress. Decades ago, pioneering weather and imagery capabilities brought immediate benefits,but the growing capabilities and numbers of such satellites around the world today are already paying even greaterdividends that will continue to increase in importance as climate change effects are felt. Two examples of how thesecontributions are being made today are mentioned here. The first is the Group on Earth Observations (GEO), whichincludes participation by 76 nations (including the U.S.), the European Commission, and 56 participatingorganizations. Its objective is to establish a Global Earth Observation System of Systems that coordinates systemplanning, data sharing, and research collaboration worldwide. 29 The second example is the work being done underthe Charter on Cooperation to Achieve the Coordinated Use of Space Facilities in the Event of Natural orTechnological Disasters (Space & Major Disasters Charter), which was issued in 2000. Its 19 members, consistingof government space agencies and non-government space system operators, supply data and services when disastersstrike anywhere in the world. From the time the network began operating in February 2002 through July 2009, theCharter was activated 198 times. 30 This is an excellent example of a “no-regrets” program – there is a clear needbeing served even in the absence of climate change effects. Programs such as these will need to be better staffed andresourced if climate change increases the demand for their services in the years to come. The Obama administration is faced with an urgent need to set the course for the nation’s future in Earth science.Under current planning, NASA will replace its Earth science missions at a slower rate than they are expiring,meaning that the robustness enjoyed by the U.S. Earth science enterprise since the mid-1990s will not last beyondthe early part of the next decade – a time when concerns about global climate change and environmental degradationare likely to increase. 31 Meanwhile, a number of European and Asian nations, as well as Canada and Brazil, are increasing theiractivities in scientific and operational Earth sensing missions. Within a few years, these efforts will surpass U.S.Earth science work as new U.S. systems are deployed at less than their attrition rate. A prime example of growinginternational activity is the Global Monitoring for Environment and Security (GMES) program, led by the EuropeanCommission and the European Space Agency (ESA). Over a 10-year period starting in 2008, the GMES programplans to launch 15 electro-optical and radar satellites to study the land, oceans, and atmosphere for both scientific 7
  8. 8. investigations and ongoing operations. Collectively, Europe is seeking to be the uncontested world leader in Earthobservations from space. 32,33 In the medium-to-long term, space systems can play a role in preventing climate change, but this will be morechallenging due to technical and institutional hurdles. Initially, this will be done by systems much like those we havetoday. For example, electro-optical and thermal sensors could be used to help enforce carbon caps or otherregulatory restrictions. This has already started to a limited extent. For example, Japan’s Ibuki satellite, launched inJanuary 2009, is designed to look for carbon dioxide sources for treaty monitoring purposes. 34 Satellite systemseventually could become the tool of choice for monitoring and enforcement of domestic and international laws andagreements relevant to a variety of environmental concerns. However, we are still a long way from reaching thispoint. Long-term continuity is required in monitoring an array of key climate variables, and research satellites arenot designed to provide this. Commitments to operational satellite systems are necessary, analogous to the nation’scommitments to operational early warning, surveillance, and reconnaissance systems. 35 Like the national securitycommunity, the climate research and environmental monitoring communities seek to achieve what their defensecounterparts have termed “persistent surveillance.” In looking at the longer term (i.e., through the end of the 21st century), it would be premature to identify a directrole for space in solving problems of overpopulation and human migration. The science fiction vision of humansmigrating off-planet in numbers sufficient to reduce our species’ footprint on Earth is not going to happen in thiscentury, so that discussion is best left to later generations. However, much can be done in the coming decades todirectly and significantly change the greenhouse gas and other pollutant output of human systems within Earth’senvironment. Scarcity of energy and resources may become a growing cause of conflict in the remainder of this century, andspace activities can’t do anything to reduce the demand. Therefore, space capabilities must be employed to tacklethe supply side of the problem. The logical place to start is with energy, which is continuously available in thevicinity of Earth in the form of solar radiation that can be captured, converted, and transported using electromagnetictechniques much like those that have been in use for decades on communications satellites. One can envision a timewhen energy intensity – the amount of energy consumed per unit of output – will be measured by dividing it intoterrestrial energy intensity (generated on Earth) and space energy intensity (imported from space). For Earth-basedprocesses, an objective may be to offset the former with the latter to reduce the environmental footprint. Material resources are a more difficult challenge, since they would need to be mined from specific locationssuch as the Moon and asteroids, transported to a space-based processing plant, and delivered in their finished (or atleast, refined) form to a buyer for use either on Earth or in space. If an efficient system can be developed to de-orbitbulk materials, they could be delivered from an orbiting platform to any point on Earth for about the same cost.Once this infrastructure is in place, heavy industry can gradually move into space, taking advantage of microgravity,solar energy, and vacuum and relieving the industrial pollution of Earth. This would make it possible for economiesand living standards worldwide to grow without jeopardizing the planet’s sustainability. Such a circumstance wouldbe a powerful safeguard against global instability. V. Seeking an Action Plan The National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008 included an amendment to title 10 of the U.S.Code requiring consideration of the effects of climate change on defense facilities, capabilities, and missions(although no funding was appropriated for this purpose). The law also requires that climate change effects beaddressed in the National Security Strategy, the National Defense Strategy, and the Quadrennial Defense Review. 36As of this writing, the National Defense Strategy of June 2008 is the only one of these documents that has beenreissued since the law was passed; however, it fails to comply with the law, making only a token mention of climatechange as one of several “areas of uncertainty.” 37 Implementation of the law by the Obama administration will necessitate more serious consideration of climatechange in national security planning documents than has been evident so far, followed by specific action plans forall sectors of the national security community. Reports published to date on climate change as a security threat havenot focused attention on threats to U.S. government space operations or mitigation options available to the spacesector. National security agencies routinely plan for a wide range of contingencies including worst-case scenarios.Precautions taken for critical operations heed the worst-case warnings, as the Cold War nuclear triad and U.S. plansfor continuity of operations and continuity of government amply demonstrate. National policy recognizes that spacecapabilities are a vital national interest, 38 and that space-based communications and navigation are part of thenation’s critical infrastructure. 39 Therefore, in facing environmental and climate threats capable of causing damage 8
  9. 9. and instability on a global scale, the nation should be preparing to safeguard its space systems against these threatswith the same determination that has been demonstrated in defending critical national assets against attack. This willrequire more comprehensive studies than those done so far. For example, “studies of potential sea level rise impactshave not been conducted for most parts of the globe, and those that have been typically examine only one aspect ofsea level impacts, such as beach erosion or storm surge height” 40 while ignoring other consequences such asinundation of freshwater supplies, damage to infrastructure and agriculture, and temporary or permanent populationdisplacement. Incorporating such circumstances into strategic planning across many affected agencies is a formidablechallenge, but delay could make the search for solutions more difficult over time. In reviewing the extensive studythat already has been done on the national security implications of climate change, … it is striking how well trod the ground is… Yet even more striking is the lack of resolution. Why has serious action not been taken? After decades of warnings and years of events trending just as those warnings predicted, why has climate change not taken its rightful place as perhaps the biggest security challenge the United States faces? 41 The space community should conduct an audit of the full range of its climate change vulnerabilities as early aspossible to maximize its alternatives for mitigation and adaptation. Some remedial actions will actually save money,as countless businesses and government installations have discovered in their efforts to “go green.” 42 Other actionswill have significant costs, but ultimately these costs will be less than the costs imposed by climate change damagesthat could be averted. 43 In addition to the actions that need to be taken quickly, strategic planning also should take a long view,extending to mid-century and beyond. If space operations of all kinds continue to increase in scope and importance,then the viability of the ground segment becomes more important as well. Concerted efforts in the decades aheadwill lead to capabilities in areas such as the harvesting of extraterrestrial energy and materials, which in the longterm can help mitigate adverse environmental and climate effects through permanent solutions that allow thesustainable development of humanity’s future. References1 Rosalie Westenskow, “Intel chief: Climate change threatens U.S. security,” United Press International, February 18, 2009. ( 14021234988045/)2 National Research Council, Division on Earth and Life Sciences, “Abrupt Climate Change: Inevitable Surprises,” National Academy Press, Washington, DC, 2002.3 Peter Schwartz & Doug Randall, “An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security,” Global Business Networks, October 2003.4 Theodore K. Rabb, “If Only It Had Not Been Such a Wet Summer,” in R. Cowley (ed.), What If? (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999), pp. 107-118.5 David McCullough, “What the Fog Wrought,” in R. Cowley (ed.), What If? (New York: G.P. Putnam’s Sons, 1999), pp. 189-200.6 Michael H. Glantz, “Achilles’ Other Heel: Early Warning Systems” in C. Pumphrey (ed.), Global Climate Change: National Security Implications, pp. 237-252.7 Jared Diamond, Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed (New York: Penguin Books, 2005).8 Geoffrey Parker, “Crisis and Catastrophe: The Global Crisis of the Seventeenth Century Reconsidered,” American Historical Review, Vol. 113, No. 4, October 2008, pp. 1053-1079.9 U.S. Climate Change Science Program, “Weather and Climate Extremes in a Changing Climate – Regions of Focus: North America, Hawaii, Caribbean, and U.S. Pacific Islands,” Department of Commerce, NOAA’s National Climatic Data Center, June 2008, p. 1.10 Gordon R. Sullivan et al., “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” The CNA Corporation, April 2007. ( Bryan Walsh, “Does Global Warming Compromise National Security?” Time Magazine, Apr. 16, 2008 (,28804,1730759_1731383_1731632,00.html).12 Defense Science Board, Task Force on DoD Energy Strategy, “More Fight, Less Fuel,” February 2008; Thomas L. Friedman, Hot, Flat, and Crowded (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 2008), pp. 317-322. The CNA military advisory board made additional recommendations for DoD energy security in Charles F. Wald et al., “Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security,” The CNA Corporation, May 2009 ( 9
  10. 10. 13 Kurt M. Campbell et al., “The Age of Consequences: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Global Climate Change,” Center for Strategic & International Studies (CSIS) & Center for a New American Security, November 2007 ( This report was substantially expanded and released as Kurt M. Campbell (ed.), Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008).14 Joshua W. Busby, “Climate Change and National Security: An Agenda for Action,” Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), Council Special Report No. 32, November 2007.15 Thomas Fingar, Deputy Director of National Intelligence for Analysis and Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, “National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030,” testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, June 25, 2008. ( For example, see National Intelligence Council, “Global Trends 2025: A Transformed World,” November 2008 (, which is the fourth report in a series that goes back to the late 1990s.17 Stew Magnuson, “Warming Planet, Heated Debate: Climate Change Fears Spill Over to the Defense Community,” National Defense, August 2008 pp. 40-44. ( TheDefenseCommunity.aspx)18 European Commission paper S113/08, “Climate Change and International Security,” March 14, 2008. ( German Federal Foreign Office conference, “Climate Change as a Security Threat: Strategies for Policy- Makers, Science, and Business,” Freiburg, Germany, November 6-7, 2008. (http://freiburg- U.N. Security Council, Department of Public Information, “Security Council Holds First-Ever Debate on Impact of Climate Change on Peace, Security, Hearing Over 50 Speakers,” April 17, 2007. ( Oli Brown, Anne Hammill, & Robert McLeman, “Climate change as the ‘new’ security threat: implications for Africa,” International Affairs, Vol. 83, No. 6 (2007), pp. 1141–1154. ( Carolyn Pumphrey (ed.), “Global Climate Change: National Security Implications,” Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, May 2008. ( Based on a colloquium with the same title held in Chapel Hill, North Carolina on March 30-31, 2007.23 Carolyn Pumphrey, Introduction to “Global Climate Change: National Security Implications,” C. Pumphrey (ed.), Strategic Studies Institute, U.S. Army War College, May 2008, pp. 1-21.24 Michael E. Mann & Lee R. Kump, Dire Predictions: Understanding Global Warming (New York: DK Publishing Inc., 2008), pp. 98-99. The book is a layman’s guide to the Fourth Assessment (2007) of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).25 Ibid, pp. 110-111.26 Vaclav Smil, Global Catastrophes and Trends: The Next 50 Years (Cambridge, MA: MIT Press, 2008), p. 182.27 U.S. Air Force Fact Sheet, “Ground-Based Electro-Optical Deep Space Surveillance,” November 2006.28 U.S. Army Space & Missile Defense Command, Reagan Test Site ( Group on Earth Observations ( Space & Major Disasters Charter ( National Research Council, Earth Science and Applications from Space: National Imperatives for the Next Decade and Beyond (Washington: National Academies Press, 2007). For NASA’s list of current and forthcoming missions, see Peter B. deSelding, “Europe Makes Earth Observation a Priority,” Space News, April 7, 2008, p. 20.33 Michael A. Taverna, “Stepping In: European Earth-observation proposals could shift oceanography responsibility to ESA and the EC,” Aviation Week & Space Technology, April 21, 2008, p. 51.34 Debra Werner, “NASA’s Orbiting Carbon Observatory To Map Key Climate Change Variable,” Space News, February 9, 2009, p. 12.35 Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), “Space Technologies and Climate Change: Implications for Water Management, Marine Resources, and Maritime Transport,” December 2008 10
  11. 11. ( The need to move from research to operational systems is a recurring theme in the report.36 H.R. 4986, National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2008, Sec. 951. The language of this section amends Sec. 118 of title 10, United States Code.37 U.S. Department of Defense, “National Defense Strategy,” June 2008, p. 5.38 National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 49, “U.S. National Space Policy,” August 31, 2006.39 Executive Office of the President, “National Strategy for the Physical Protection of Critical Infrastructures and Key Assets” (CIP Strategy), February 2003; Homeland Security Presidential Directive (HSPD) 7, “Critical Infrastructure Identification, Prioritization, and Protection,” December 17, 2003; National Security Presidential Directive (NSPD) 39, “U.S. Space-Based Positioning, Navigation, and Timing Policy,” December 15, 2004.40 Jay Gulledge, “Three Plausible Scenarios of Future Climate Change” in Kurt M. Campbell (ed.), Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008), p. 81.41 Kurt M. Campbell & Christine Parthemore, “National Security and Climate Change in Perspective” in Kurt M. Campbell (ed.), Climatic Cataclysm: The Foreign Policy and National Security Implications of Climate Change (Washington: Brookings Institution Press, 2008), p. 20.42 Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change, “Confronting Climate Change: Avoiding the Unmanageable and Managing the Unavoidable,” R.M. Bierbaum, J.P. Holdren, M.C. MacCracken, R.H. Moss, & P.H. Raven (eds.), United Nations Commission on Sustainable Development, February 2007, p. 68; Reed McManus, “Green & Greed: Can They Get Along? Auditing the Merger of Business and the Environment,” Sierra, January/February 2008, p. 26; U.S. Green Building Council, “National Studies Show Green Building as Key Part of America’s Economic Future,” press release, January 13, 2009 ( art%20of%20America%20%282%29.pdf).43 Scientific Expert Group on Climate Change, pp. 64-65. 11