Defence communities prepare for climate change

3 December 2021

While leaders from around the world hold conventions on the global climate crisis that have no real results, other bodies look at the problem from a very different angle. One is the Israeli intelligence community.

Global attention to the climate crisis has recently increased. As world leaders are exploring solutions for reducing greenhouse gas emissions, defence communities – primarily in the United States and Europe – are also stepping up efforts to contend with the challenges posed by climate change. These efforts focus on ensuring better preparedness for climate change, including by revising combat doctrines, altering training, adapting infrastructure, equipment, personnel, and procurement protocols, and designing climate scenarios.

According to a recent report prepared by three senior researchers from the Israeli Institute for National Security Studies (INSS) – Shira Efron, Lt. Col. Res. T.B., and David Siman Tov – the Israeli defence establishment has recognized the climate crisis as an important strategic factor that could increase the instability of countries in the Middle East, as well as affect military buildup, power projection, and warfare. The Israeli intelligence community plays an important role in designing the national security assessment, and accordingly will need to integrate climate in all levels of its intelligence analysis. Indeed, the Israeli government announced in October that its National Security Council would include climate change effects in its annual assessment, particularly extreme weather events to which Israel is vulnerable, and their effects on terrorism, mass migration and refugee hood, state stability, and IDF readiness.

"Climatic intelligence should begin with an analysis of the global theatre and their ramifications for the Middle East. The climate crisis will aggravate tensions between the great powers, including competition for natural resources (in the Arctic region, the Far East, and Africa). In the socioeconomic realm, the crisis will affect energy and commodities markets and alter trade routes, such as the opening of a shipping route at the North Pole that will compete with the Suez Canal. These developments are expected to have significant consequences for the Middle East, such as by undermining the foundations of the oil economies and revenues from trade, and perhaps accelerating the current American inclination to downsize its presence in the region, as it shifts its attention to the Pacific region, has lower dependence on oil, and its armed forces face growing operational challenges in regional bases that are already affected by climate change. "

In their conclusions, the INSS researchers say that, like counterparts in the West, the Israeli intelligence community must also address the national security implications of climate change. Israeli Military Intelligence (IMI) should rise to the challenge and immediately adopt a strategy that tackles the research, collection, operational, and force buildup aspects of this issue.

The primary focus should be on adding a regional climate analysis tool to intelligence assessments. To do so, the IMI should "integrate advanced climate assessments into intelligence analyses, based on high-resolution scientific data. This will require special training of personnel and a dialogue with climate experts in Israel and around the world."

The researchers add that climate scenarios should be formulated to serve as a policy reference, and these scenarios should be used in force buildup planning. Climate change effects, both present and projected, must be taken into consideration in the development of platforms and new weapon systems, procurement specifications, application of advanced algorithmic in data processing, and implementation of new operational concepts, which expand the collection overlap between difference sensors.

It is important to consider how the national effort for addressing the climate crisis can capitalize on the IMI’s distinct relative advantages to promote national preparedness.

Arie Egozi is a defence writer based in Tel Aviv