Water Crises, Security and Climate Change


The Center for the National Interest is pleased to announce the release of Water Crises, Security and Climate Change, edited by Geoffrey Kemp, Senior Director of Regional Security Programs at the Center for the National Interest, and Luke Hagberg, former Program Assistant at The Center for the National Interest, with assistance from Adam Lammon, Program Assistant at the Center for the National Interest, and Bianca Majumder and Bradley L. Nelson, former interns in the Center’s Climate, Security, and the Middle East program.

A digital version of the full report may be found here.

Access to water has been a key factor in the rise of civilizations. Fresh water is essential for human consumption, agriculture, and industrial production, while access to the sea has been an instrumental feature of the growth of empires and international trade.

Today, water has become even more critical to the calculations of nation-states and individual sub-state actors. Rapid population growth is driving an increasing human demand for food and hydropower-generated electricity, and poor infrastructure, resource mismanagement, and scarcity due to geographical and environmental factors make the stresses on many societies even graver. At the same time, climate change is increasing the severity of storms, floods, and droughts, leading to the contamination of freshwater resources, and threatening low-lying regions of the world with storm-surges, coastal flooding, and in some cases disappearance beneath the surf. Thus, an examination of security issues surrounding water—as a resource and as a force of nature threatening human lives and livelihoods—is timely.

Part I of this monograph covers a range of cases in which freshwater scarcity is a key factor in conflicts within societies, as it was in Syria in the run-up to its civil war, and between nation-states, as it is in the Nile River and Indus River basins. Part II focuses on the many ways in which climate change-induced sea level rise will have severe consequences for low-lying coastal regions and island nations throughout the world. The United States is highly vulnerable to new dangers which pose long-term national security risks.