A Climate of Insecurity? Exploring the Nexus of Climate Change and National Security

March 2024 No Comments

Speaker: Dr. Samuel Henkin (NSI, Inc.)

Date: 4 April 2024

Speaker Session Summary

The rapidly evolving global climate system is undergoing changes at an unprecedented rate, placing significant strains on governments and communities worldwide. Dr. Henkin underscored that climate change functions as a threat multiplier, intensifying existing social, political, and economic tensions. The concept of the “climate-security nexus” demonstrates that climate change transcends mere environmental implications, posing substantial risks to US interests and objectives both domestically and internationally, particularly in developing nations, which are disproportionately affected by climate change and usually the least equipped to mitigate its impacts.

In his research, Dr. Henkin aimed to address two key questions: 1) how climate change exacerbates preexisting tensions, and 2) what secondary and tertiary effects arise from climate change. The presentation delved into regional snap shots, including the Sahel region in Africa and Southeast Asia. The Southeast Asian case study illustrated how resource sharing across transnational borders influences geopolitical tensions, while the Sahel case study highlighted how climate crises can serve as antecedents to violent extremist movements. Unfortunately, many Sahel countries lack the necessary resources to effectively address the effects of climate change.

Throughout the presentation, Dr. Henkin touched upon various themes, including “citizen security,” emphasizing the importance of safeguarding core human rights. He discussed how this concept intersects with the objectives of violent extremist movements. Dr. Henkin concluded by emphasizing the imperative for climate specialists to grasp the influence of climate on power dynamics and for security experts to comprehend how climate change will reshape the security landscape.

To read additional works by Dr. Henkin, please view “A Climate of Terror? Approaches to the Study of Climate Change and Terrorism” or “Climate Security, Great Power Competition, and Adversarial Geopolitics in Southeast Asia.”

Speaker Session Recording

Briefing Materials

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Biography: Dr. Samuel Henkin is a Principal Research Scientist at NSI, Inc. He is a political geographer with expertise in spatial analysis at the intersection of geopolitics, emerging global security risks like climate change, and national security. Samuel is a multidisciplinary scholar-practitioner with rigorous training and experience in qualitative research approaches and fieldwork that aims to better understand the intricate systems and relationships between socioeconomic, political, and geographical contexts and the complexities that define compounding security risks. Additionally, he has extensive experience developing, implementing, and evaluating capacity-building programming. At NSI, Samuel’s experience and expertise support the US Joint Staff Strategic Multilayer Assessment (SMA) portfolio and contribute to the production of NSI’s conceptual frameworks, ontologies, and models to address broad questions of interest to the national security and defense community. Prior to NSI, Samuel was a Senior Researcher at the National Consortium for the Study of Terrorism and Responses to Terrorism (START) and a Professor of Security and Terrorism Studies at the University of Maryland, College Park. He also served as a Professor of Political Science at George Washington University in Washington, DC.


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