skip to main content
OSTI.GOV title logo U.S. Department of Energy
Office of Scientific and Technical Information

Title: The Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security.

Abstract

The Arctic region is rapidly changing in a way that will affect the rest of the world. Parts of Alaska, western Canada, and Siberia are currently warming at twice the global rate. This warming trend is accelerating permafrost deterioration, coastal erosion, snow and ice loss, and other changes that are a direct consequence of climate change. Climatologists have long understood that changes in the Arctic would be faster and more intense than elsewhere on the planet, but the degree and speed of the changes were underestimated compared to recent observations. Policy makers have not yet had time to examine the latest evidence or appreciate the nature of the consequences. Thus, the abruptness and severity of an unfolding Arctic climate crisis has not been incorporated into long-range planning. The purpose of this report is to briefly review the physical basis for global climate change and Arctic amplification, summarize the ongoing observations, discuss the potential consequences, explain the need for an objective risk assessment, develop scenarios for future change, review existing modeling capabilities and the need for better regional models, and finally to make recommendations for Sandia's future role in preparing our leaders to deal with impacts of Arctic climate change onmore » national security. Accurate and credible regional-scale climate models are still several years in the future, and those models are essential for estimating climate impacts around the globe. This study demonstrates how a scenario-based method may be used to give insights into climate impacts on a regional scale and possible mitigation. Because of our experience in the Arctic and widespread recognition of the Arctic's importance in the Earth climate system we chose the Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security. Sandia can make a swift and significant contribution by applying modeling and simulation tools with internal collaborations as well as with outside organizations. Because changes in the Arctic environment are happening so rapidly, a successful program will be one that can adapt very quickly to new information as it becomes available, and can provide decision makers with projections on the 1-5 year time scale over which the most disruptive, high-consequence changes are likely to occur. The greatest short-term impact would be to initiate exploratory simulations to discover new emergent and robust phenomena associated with one or more of the following changing systems: Arctic hydrological cycle, sea ice extent, ocean and atmospheric circulation, permafrost deterioration, carbon mobilization, Greenland ice sheet stability, and coastal erosion. Sandia can also contribute to new technology solutions for improved observations in the Arctic, which is currently a data-sparse region. Sensitivity analyses have the potential to identify thresholds which would enable the collaborative development of 'early warning' sensor systems to seek predicted phenomena that might be precursory to major, high-consequence changes. Much of this work will require improved regional climate models and advanced computing capabilities. Socio-economic modeling tools can help define human and national security consequences. Formal uncertainty quantification must be an integral part of any results that emerge from this work.« less

Authors:
; ; ; ;
Publication Date:
Research Org.:
Sandia National Laboratories
Sponsoring Org.:
USDOE
OSTI Identifier:
945918
Report Number(s):
SAND2008-7006
TRN: US200904%%194
DOE Contract Number:
AC04-94AL85000
Resource Type:
Technical Report
Country of Publication:
United States
Language:
English
Subject:
45 MILITARY TECHNOLOGY, WEAPONRY, AND NATIONAL DEFENSE; AMPLIFICATION; ARCTIC REGIONS; ATMOSPHERIC CIRCULATION; CARBON; CLIMATE MODELS; CLIMATES; CLIMATIC CHANGE; MITIGATION; NATIONAL SECURITY; PERMAFROST; PLANNING; RISK ASSESSMENT; SEAS; SENSITIVITY; SIMULATION; SNOW; STABILITY; VELOCITY; National security-Environmental aspects.; National security.; Arctic regions-Climate.

Citation Formats

Taylor, Mark A., Zak, Bernard Daniel, Backus, George A., Ivey, Mark D., and Boslough, Mark Bruce Elrick. The Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security.. United States: N. p., 2008. Web. doi:10.2172/945918.
Taylor, Mark A., Zak, Bernard Daniel, Backus, George A., Ivey, Mark D., & Boslough, Mark Bruce Elrick. The Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security.. United States. doi:10.2172/945918.
Taylor, Mark A., Zak, Bernard Daniel, Backus, George A., Ivey, Mark D., and Boslough, Mark Bruce Elrick. 2008. "The Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security.". United States. doi:10.2172/945918. https://www.osti.gov/servlets/purl/945918.
@article{osti_945918,
title = {The Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security.},
author = {Taylor, Mark A. and Zak, Bernard Daniel and Backus, George A. and Ivey, Mark D. and Boslough, Mark Bruce Elrick},
abstractNote = {The Arctic region is rapidly changing in a way that will affect the rest of the world. Parts of Alaska, western Canada, and Siberia are currently warming at twice the global rate. This warming trend is accelerating permafrost deterioration, coastal erosion, snow and ice loss, and other changes that are a direct consequence of climate change. Climatologists have long understood that changes in the Arctic would be faster and more intense than elsewhere on the planet, but the degree and speed of the changes were underestimated compared to recent observations. Policy makers have not yet had time to examine the latest evidence or appreciate the nature of the consequences. Thus, the abruptness and severity of an unfolding Arctic climate crisis has not been incorporated into long-range planning. The purpose of this report is to briefly review the physical basis for global climate change and Arctic amplification, summarize the ongoing observations, discuss the potential consequences, explain the need for an objective risk assessment, develop scenarios for future change, review existing modeling capabilities and the need for better regional models, and finally to make recommendations for Sandia's future role in preparing our leaders to deal with impacts of Arctic climate change on national security. Accurate and credible regional-scale climate models are still several years in the future, and those models are essential for estimating climate impacts around the globe. This study demonstrates how a scenario-based method may be used to give insights into climate impacts on a regional scale and possible mitigation. Because of our experience in the Arctic and widespread recognition of the Arctic's importance in the Earth climate system we chose the Arctic as a test case for an assessment of climate impacts on national security. Sandia can make a swift and significant contribution by applying modeling and simulation tools with internal collaborations as well as with outside organizations. Because changes in the Arctic environment are happening so rapidly, a successful program will be one that can adapt very quickly to new information as it becomes available, and can provide decision makers with projections on the 1-5 year time scale over which the most disruptive, high-consequence changes are likely to occur. The greatest short-term impact would be to initiate exploratory simulations to discover new emergent and robust phenomena associated with one or more of the following changing systems: Arctic hydrological cycle, sea ice extent, ocean and atmospheric circulation, permafrost deterioration, carbon mobilization, Greenland ice sheet stability, and coastal erosion. Sandia can also contribute to new technology solutions for improved observations in the Arctic, which is currently a data-sparse region. Sensitivity analyses have the potential to identify thresholds which would enable the collaborative development of 'early warning' sensor systems to seek predicted phenomena that might be precursory to major, high-consequence changes. Much of this work will require improved regional climate models and advanced computing capabilities. Socio-economic modeling tools can help define human and national security consequences. Formal uncertainty quantification must be an integral part of any results that emerge from this work.},
doi = {10.2172/945918},
journal = {},
number = ,
volume = ,
place = {United States},
year = 2008,
month =
}

Technical Report:

Save / Share:
  • Climate change, through drought, flooding, storms, heat waves, and melting Arctic ice, affects the production and flow of resource within and among geographical regions. The interactions among governments, populations, and sectors of the economy require integrated assessment based on risk, through uncertainty quantification (UQ). This project evaluated the capabilities with Sandia National Laboratories to perform such integrated analyses, as they relate to (inter)national security. The combining of the UQ results from climate models with hydrological and economic/infrastructure impact modeling appears to offer the best capability for national security risk assessments.
  • Globally, there is no lack of security threats. Many of them demand priority engagement and there can never be adequate resources to address all threats. In this context, climate is just another aspect of global security and the Arctic just another region. In light of physical and budgetary constraints, new security needs must be integrated and prioritized with existing ones. This discussion approaches the security impacts of climate from that perspective, starting with the broad security picture and establishing how climate may affect it. This method provides a different view from one that starts with climate and projects it, inmore » isolation, as the source of a hypothetical security burden. That said, the Arctic does appear to present high-priority security challenges. Uncertainty in the timing of an ice-free Arctic affects how quickly it will become a security priority. Uncertainty in the emergent extreme and variable weather conditions will determine the difficulty (cost) of maintaining adequate security (order) in the area. The resolution of sovereignty boundaries affects the ability to enforce security measures, and the U.S. will most probably need a military presence to back-up negotiated sovereignty agreements. Without additional global warming, technology already allows the Arctic to become a strategic link in the global supply chain, possibly with northern Russia as its main hub. Additionally, the multinational corporations reaping the economic bounty may affect security tensions more than nation-states themselves. Countries will depend ever more heavily on the global supply chains. China has particular needs to protect its trade flows. In matters of security, nation-state and multinational-corporate interests will become heavily intertwined.« less
  • Regarding the Arctic Terrestrial Simulator (ATS), previous work solved integrated hydrology (coupled surface/subsurface flow) on multiple polygons, and surface flow over larger domains to guide landscape characterization. Solved thermal hydrology with freeze/thaw dynamics in three dimensions. Ongoing efforts apply state of the art thermal hydrology model to complex topography, and include mesh deformation processes.
  • The U.S. federal government is considering actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Renewable energy and energy efficiency technologies could help reduce greenhouse gas emissions, so the cost of these technologies could significantly influence the overall cost of meeting greenhouse gas limits. This paper examines the potential benefit of reduced technology cost by analyzing the case of the Lieberman-Warner Climate Security Act of 2007 (S.2191). This act had a goal of reducing national carbon emissions in 2050 to levels 72 percent below 2006 emission levels. In April 2008, the U.S. Department of Energy, Energy Information Administration (EIA) published an analysis ofmore » the effects of S.2191 on the U.S. energy sector. This report presents a similar analysis: both analyses examined the impacts of S.2191, and both used versions of the National Energy Modeling System. The analysis reported here used modified technology assumptions to reflect U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Energy Efficiency and Renewable Energy (EERE) program goals. The results show that achieving EERE program goals could reduce the cost of meeting greenhouse gas limits, reduce the cost of renewable electricity generation and biofuels, and reduce energy intensity.« less