CSR Podcast Episode 4: with Dr. Benjamin Santer and Matt Korda

Welcome to the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR) Podcast Network! Here we speak with leading experts who are working to anticipate, analyze, and address core systemic risks to security in the 21st Century. Our fourth episode focuses on effectively communicating climate and nuclear issues.

CSR Podcast Episode 4: with with Dr. Benjamin Santer and Matt Korda (January 14, 2020)

It can be difficult to effectively translate complex risks like climate and nuclear security issues to the global community. In this episode, host Dr. Sweta Chakraborty speaks to Dr. Benjamin Santer, an atmospheric scientist at Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory, and Matt Korda, a Research Associate for the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. Santer and Korda, members of CSR’s Working Group on Climate, Nuclear, and Security Affairs, discuss the challenges they face in their respective fields and how communications could be improved.

Although these are considered grave threats, efforts to bolster international climate and nuclear cooperation have fallen apart in recent years. The United States informed the UN that it was formally pulling out of the Paris agreement. The Trump administration also officially withdrew from the INF treaty, a Cold War-era agreement made with the Soviet Union to eliminate nuclear and conventional ground-launched cruise and ballistic missiles with ranges between 500-5,500 km. This podcast explores the scenarios that could unfold following these events. In both cases, U.S. actions could pave the way for other nations to also withdraw.

These challenges do not necessarily stem from an information deficit. In fact, climate change and nuclear weapons research date back decades. The obstacles arise when technical details have to be translated i.e. there is a gap between data and actionable policy initiatives.

Perhaps the greatest hurdle is conveying the intersections of the climate and nuclear security nexus. A recent IPCC special report states that sea levels are rising 3.6 mm per year – twice as fast as 20th century rates. Many nuclear reactors continue to be constructed along coastlines—for example, in planned projects in Turkey and Egypt. Nuclear-weapon possessing states such as Pakistan and India share water resources that are directly fed by glacial waters that are declining and could cause flooding and eventually lead to water insecurity. Water allocation disputes continue to cause tension.

The episode highlights the need to expand current mechanisms in order to incorporate nuclear and climate trends. For example, organizations such as the National Labs should combine climate and nuclear expertise in order to further study potential intersections.  Likewise, security agencies should focus on climate impacts on nuclear storage and infrastructure.

CSR’s Podcast Network will regularly feature exclusive dialogues with leading security and international affairs experts. Stay tuned for cutting-edge discussions on the world’s existential and strategic risks, and the ways in which these challenges are converging.

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