Preparing NATO for climate-related security challenges

By putting in place climate change adaptation measures, NATO has an opportunity to both strengthen operational resilience and adapt to the impacts of climate change.
Research paper Updated 29 September 2023 Published 4 July 2023 ISBN: 978 1 78413 579 9 DOI: 10.55317/9781784135799
A military unit assists in fighting wildfires in Slovenia.

The impacts of climate change and extreme weather events have the potential to threaten capabilities across all of NATO’s domains and impact its ability to deter and defend. To meet these challenges, NATO should adapt by strengthening its political and institutional structures, its mechanisms for anticipating climate risks and its operational resilience. In doing so, it can also improve operational effectiveness and gain military advantage.

Climate change adaptation and mitigation should not be seen as being in competition with addressing traditional security threats – these risks are all intrinsically connected. NATO can take a leading role in building the political will and understanding among allies to ensure climate security remains high on the agenda. The 2023 NATO Summit and the forthcoming annual Climate Change and Security Impact Assessment are important opportunities to reflect on NATO’s current climate security policies and their efficacy.

Importantly, if NATO wants to remain an effective organization able to deliver on its three core tasks, it will need to adapt to be able to tackle the systemic risks caused by climate change.