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With the global climate conference due to start on October 31, the U.S. intelligence community has released a report, Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040.

Some of the most important findings:

Key Judgment 1: Geopolitical tensions are likely to grow as countries increasingly argue about how to accelerate the reductions in net greenhouse gas emissions that will be needed to meet the Paris Agreement goals. Debate will center on who bears more responsibility to act and to pay—and how quickly—and countries will compete to control resources and dominate new technologies needed for the clean energy transition. Most countries will face difficult economic choices and probably will count on technological breakthroughs to rapidly reduce their net emissions later. China and India will play critical roles in determining the trajectory of temperature rise.

Key Judgment 2: The increasing physical effects of climate change are likely to exacerbate cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as states take steps to secure their interests. The reduction in sea ice already is amplifying strategic competition in the Arctic over access to its natural resources. Elsewhere, as temperatures rise and more extreme effects manifest, there is a growing risk of conflict over water and migration, particularly after 2030, and an increasing chance that countries will unilaterally test and deploy large-scale solar geoengineering—creating a new area of disputes.

Key Judgment 3: Scientific forecasts indicate that intensifying physical effects of climate change out to 2040 and beyond will be most acutely felt in developing countries, which we assess are also the least able to adapt to such changes. These physical effects will increase the potential for instability and possibly internal conflict in these countries, in some cases creating additional demands on US diplomatic, economic, humanitarian, and military resources. Despite geographic and financial resource advantages, the United States and partners face costly challenges that will become more difficult to manage without concerted effort to reduce emissions and cap warming.

While the U.S. intelligence community has a high degree of confidence in the science behind climte change, it has less confidence in the ability of the global community to de-carbonize.

The IC has moderate confidence in the pace of decarbonizing the energy sector, given how historically entrenched and slow moving energy systems have been to change and the difficulty of predicting technological breakthroughs. Our confidence decreases after 2030 because government and private sector policies and investments have the potential to drive a more rapid transition.

 

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