Climate change is a threat multiplier—exacerbating existing societal stressors and regional instabilities.
Although climate change has been identified by policymakers as a critical national security issue, granular climate impacts are rarely included in security strategy. In 2021, Woodwell Climate’s Risk team began to address these needs through a collaborative research and policy-development effort with the Center for Climate & Security (CCS), a non-partisan security institute. In this interdisciplinary collaboration between the scientific and security communities, our goal is to provide actionable climate intelligence that can be used to directly inform security policy.
We quantify and map key climate risks that have the potential to aggravate existing instabilities and tensions in the future—from the impacts of crop yield failure on food security in Iran and North Korea, to the threat of permafrost thaw on critical infrastructure in the Arctic.
We examine these impacts and others in our most recent collaboration, focusing on the key geographies of Iran and Türkiye in the Middle East. This follows from our first suite of climate security case studies, with full reports and interactive StoryMaps on the China-India border region (storymap), the Arctic (storymap), and North Korea (storymap).
In each case study, we go beyond just assessing key climate risks. In partnership with CCS, we offer comprehensive, policy-relevant climate security analysis and science-based policy recommendations.
By identifying and addressing the ways in which climate change can aggravate and catalyze existing threats, climate-aware security policy can help avoid the worst security scenarios and prepare for those that are unavoidable.
In addition to pioneering new technologies and leading breakthrough research on Arctic warming and weather patterns, Dr. Jennifer Francis is also an award-winning science communicator. Ever since her 2012 paper first introduced the concept that Arctic warming could alter the jet stream and yield more extreme weather events, Dr. Francis has been writing, speaking, and testifying to different audiences and organizations to underscore the gravity of Arctic warming and the societal risks of the climate crisis.
With articles published in Scientific American, The Old Farmers’ Almanac, Elridge’s Tide and Pilot Book, The Conversation, The Hill, and numerous other outlets, Dr. Francis’ conversations about climate and extreme weather have engaged a broad public audience. She has presented to various types of groups, from teachers associations to White House staffers, and contributed to videos and docuseries like Eli Kintisch’s After the Ice and Rainn Wilson’s An Idiot’s Guide to Climate Change. She was tapped to contribute to Greta Thunberg’s new book, The Climate Book, and appeared in various documentaries, including Earth Emergency. Dr. Francis’ focus on science communication extends to policymakers as well. She testified to the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Security in 2020, the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Science, Space, & Technology in 2019, and the Senate Committee on the Environment and Public Works in 2013.
Dr. Francis’ excellence in climate communications was recognized by the American Geophysical Union when she received the union’s Climate Science Communication Prize in 2020. She is frequently asked by major media outlets to provide expertise on various topics related to climate and extreme weather, and she takes every opportunity to apply her knowledge of weather and Arctic expertise in combination with her communications skills to stress the dire urgency of climate action.