Security Experts Advance New Frame for Climate-Energy Debate

Press Release                                        
February 10, 2011

Contact: Tom Steinfeldt, 703-516-4146

Security Experts Advance New Frame for Climate-Energy Debate
Pew Center Scientist Co-Authors E3G Study on Risk Management Strategy for Climate Change

WASHINGTON, D.C.– An approach familiar to the national security community and the military could offer a common-sense approach to tackle climate and energy policy, according to a new report issued today.

Degrees of Risk: Defining a Risk Management Framework for Climate Security, produced by the non-profit organization E3G, is the result of a series of closed-door meetings with national and international security, intelligence, and defense officials. The report, co-authored by Jay Gulledge of the Pew Center on Global Climate Change, recommends using a risk management approach to break logjams and tackle climate change.

“The scientific evidence that the climate is likely to change significantly in the next few decades is far more solid than the evidence that usually underpins security decisions in other areas, like nuclear proliferation or the actions of rogue states,” said Gulledge, who directs the Pew Center’s Science and Impacts Program and is a non-resident Senior Fellow at the Center for a New American Security. “Scientific uncertainty is not a state of unknowing. It is quantitative information that should be used to make risk management decisions, and this is especially true for climate change.”

“The risk-management approach makes sense even if you have questions about the effects of climate change,” said E3G Chief Executive Nick Mabey. “It comes down to how much risk are we willing to take?”

Risk management is an approach that must be tailored by decision-makers, but as a starting point, Degrees of Risk proposes a three-tier approach to planning:

  • Aim to stay below 2° C (3.6 °F) of warming,which is the target committed to by the world’s major economies
  • Build and budget assuming 3-4° C (5.4-7.2° F) of warming,which is what current international agreements would allow
  • Make contingency plans for 5-7° C (9-12.6° F) of warming, which remains a real possibility, in part because international agreements are not binding

Within that framework, Degrees of Risk recommends specific steps for launching a risk management strategy, ranging from independent national climate security risk assessments, to explicit and sufficient goal-setting by countries, to a transparent and resilient system for international cooperation on climate change.

The report’s authors are:

  • E3G Chief Executive Nick Mabey, who as senior advisor in the UK Prime Minister’s Strategy Unit led work on energy, climate change, and countries at risk of instability.
  • Jay Gulledge, PhD, Director, Science and Impacts Program, Pew  Center on Global Climate Change; and Senior Fellow, Center for a New American Security 
  • Bernard I. Finel, Senior Fellow, American Security Project. He has taught national security strategy at the National War College and served as executive director of the Security Studies Program at Georgetown University.
  • Katherine Silverthorne, program lead on U.S. Climate Change, heads the Climate Security Program at E3G.

E3G is an independent not-for-profit organization that works to accelerate the global transition to sustainable development.

The report can be accessed at


The Pew Center on Global Climate Change was established in May 1998 as a non-profit, non-partisan, and independent organization dedicated to providing credible information, straight answers, and innovative solutions in the effort to address global climate change. The Pew Center is led by Eileen Claussen, the former U.S. Assistant Secretary of State for Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs.