If falling rice yields in Asia, water crises in Sudan and hurricanes in the Caribbean were framed not as regional disasters, but as nontraditional security threats to the United States, would policymakers view climate change any differently? A growing literature does just that – it moves climate change from the abstract world of degrees Celsius and melting glaciers in Antarctica, to the jarring arena of national security. The U.S. military in particular is growing steadily more aware that global climate change poses, “a series of global environmental, social, political and possibly military crises loom that the nation will urgently have to address.” While politicians dither and wrangle over specifics it may take the Army’s clout to to show leadership on this area of emerging concern.
This week the ten ASEAN member states released a joint statement on climate change during the 15th ASEAN summit. Beyond the standard boilerplate, it’s clear that ASEAN and its constituent states are preparing for an aggressive negotiation at Copenhagen—a move that aligns it heavily with China, but less so with its citizens. While nominally voicing support for the outgoing Kyoto Protocol and for the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), one phrase in particular sums up its approach: “in accordance with their common but differentiated responsibilities and respective capabilities.” Although this position is not a new one, it is an indication that ASEAN is unlikely to show flexibility in its insistence that developed nations “take the lead” in reducing emissions. Whether the approval of ASEAN’s neighbor to the north is worth popular outrage remains to be seen.