Despite scientists warning the world for the best part of two decades, the inevitable impacts of climate change seem to be finally gathering attention. This week the United States Intelligence Community (IC) released a report in which they find that “climate-related disruptions” are already underway, and that within 20 years will threaten national security and the political stability of other countries.
It follows a similar conclusion reached by US military officials last week.
The IC is made up of 16 separate government agencies that work to conduct intelligence activities to inform the Director of National Intelligence, who then reports to the President. In their latest report, released on Wednesday, they have looked into the “implications for US national security of anticipated climate change”.
They have identified a series of effects that are likely to be the result of long-term changes in the planet's climate producing more extreme weather events that in turn will have knock-on effects.
“Climate change is projected to produce more intense and frequent extreme weather events, multiple weather disturbances, along with broader climatological effects, such as sea level rise,” the report says. “These are almost certain to have significant direct and indirect social, economic, political, and security implications during the next 20 years.”
Some of these effects include adverse effects on food stability and price, heightened social and political tensions, and “negative impacts on investments and economic competitiveness.”
They have also outlined a possible timeline of when these impacts are likely to be felt, stating that the effects are already being felt due to the disruptions and changes in weather patterns. Within five years, the IC expect that water shortages are likely to increase security risks within the US, and over the next 20 years, sea level rise will be causing havoc with large coastal populations.
It would seem that politicians have finally woken up to the building threat posed to us by climate change. It is now looking increasingly likely that the Paris Climate Agreement may actually come into force, a deal that many thought would never be done.
The question now is whether or not nations can curb their emissions in time, and whether what is stipulated in the Paris Agreement is enough to keep rising global temperatures below the 1.5°C (2.7°F) threshold stated.
Many scientists think that this is not the case. We are already two-thirds of the way to going over that target. With 2015 being the warmest year on record, a full 1°C (1.8°F) warmer than 150 years ago, and 2016 expected to smash that record again, it is not looking great.
Even the aim of keeping world temperatures below 2°C (3.6°F) is generally seen as both politically and technologically ambitious, and likely to see us overshoot. Radical changes will be required, not only in the technological realm, but societally as well.