Framing climate change as a national security issue has it’s perils

It’s good to see that climate change as a serious issue has returned to US electoral politics (albeit completely on one side of the aisle at this point). However it’s return is being framed in a particular way: using the language of national security.  After past efforts to use environmental, public health and economic security arguments have failed to gain the necessary amount of traction to change policy, supporters of action on climate change believe they may be now on to a winner.  In the recent Democratic primary debate, Senator Bernie Sanders suggested that climate was not just a “national security” issue, but the biggest national security issue.  While framing climate change this way has clear advantages: it gives the issue a sense of urgency and purpose, and it can perhaps convince more hawkish types to take the issue seriously, it is not without certain perils.

In an interesting piece by in Wired, dissecting this new approach, one professor of public policy notes that using national security metaphors:

…reinforces nationalistic responses to solving the problem, as opposed to collective efforts that might be mutually beneficial to the world

In a sense climate change is the ultimate collective action problem, and piecemeal national security responses are likely to run more towards local (or national) mitigation of the effects of climate change, rather long-term systemic changes in the global economy that will be needed to effectively tackle the problem.  So if the “national security” rhetoric takes off, environmentalists, politicians and scientists will want to be sure that the other dimensions of climate change policy aren’t abandoned or ignored.

Read more at Wired

(h/t to Tim De Chant of Per Square Mile)

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