By Mackenzie Allen
Leading health experts have warned about the possibility of a pandemic like COVID-19 for many years. Yet as a nation, the United States was disastrously unprepared. In part, this may be due to health security having been largely disregarded as a critical aspect of national security. This pandemic has exposed the folly of that, making a stark case for the need to rethink national security, and reorient society towards building resilience to nontraditional threats.
This was the topic of the Things That Go Boom podcast released in late August featuring Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security, Chair of the Board at the Council on Strategic Risks, and former U.S. Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security). Goodman explains that climate change is among the most serious threats that we face today, and that adapting to and mitigating the effects of climate change has “to be a key part of everything we do… it can’t just be an add-on”. This is consistent with the comprehensive “climate-proofing security institutions” recommendation of the Center for Climate and Security’s Responsibility to Prepare and Prevent framework, of which Goodman was a co-author.
Effects of climate change, such as decreases in biodiversity and the forced displacement of peoples, have exacerbated health insecurity. This is what we are seeing occur with COVID-19, a zoonotic disease, where the destruction of wildlife habitats coupled with other socioeconomic trends led to rapid transmission of the disease between animals and humans. However, while climate change has been addressed with increasing seriousness by the U.S. security and defense communities over the past decade and a half, Sherri asserts that our vulnerabilities may stem from climate change being “seen as not central to our foreign and national security policy…it was something for the environmental technocrats to address in their own silos”. Now, the implications of climate change must be at the forefront of security discussions, with special attention given to addressing the most deeply affected communities.
The episode explores the climate change and health dimensions of global and national security issues through stories and conversations with experts in the security field.
Listen to the full audio clip to learn more, including about the impacts of racial inequality, extreme weather events, and COVID-19 on national security.
Mackenzie Allen is an intern with the Center for Climate and Security