National Security through a Climate Lens

Lukas Haynes, Executive Director of The David Rockefeller Fund, recently spent two days in Seattle at the Jackson Foundation’s invitation to speak to the community about climate security – the intersection of climate concerns with national security.  This issue, which the Jackson Foundation has been working on for several years, has gained national attention due to climate-related conflicts and international events like the Syrian civil war and the desperate water shortage in Yemen.  The David Rockefeller Fund and the Jackson Foundation share a mission to place climate security on the agenda of policymakers as well as other philanthropic partners.  Lukas Haynes generously gave his time to this cause in a packed visit here.  We featured him at a private breakfast with both classes of our Jackson Leadership Fellows, at a learning lunch for our Board of Governors, with graduate students at the University of Washington, and before a capacity crowd in partnership with the World Affairs Council.

Lukas Haynes, center, in a selfie with Jackson Leadership Fellows

The Jackson Leadership Fellows, many of whom feel passionately about climate policy, were interested to hear about Lukas’ journey toward his focus on climate security.   With a background in international relations and experience on Madeleine Albright’s speechwriting team on the U.S. State Department’s Policy Planning Staff, Lukas made the connection early on between national security and climate change and its impact on people and nations.  He has long advocated using the military’s voice to gain the attention of lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, a strategy that the Jackson Foundation also utilizes.  “This is THE key bipartisan issue,” he said.  Lukas urged the Jackson Fellows to step forward on these issues as well as others they are committed to, “Don’t wait for your seat at the table; we need your leadership now.”

To a broader audience assembled for a panel discussion on climate security, the Foundation and the World Affairs Council highlighted the consequences for our nation and the world of the issue.  Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, moderated a panel that included Lukas Haynes, Vice Admiral (ret.) Robert Parker, United States Coast Guard, and scientist Ian Kraucunas of Pacific Northwest National Labs.  Craig asked the panel to address how connecting the dots between climate and national security has the potential to impact the arc of this debate, bring in a new audience, and help shape policy.  Lukas emphasized that “the more one spends time learning about the implications of a changing climate on national and homeland security, the more urgent it becomes to develop appropriate policy at a local, state, and national level – both near term and over the horizon.”  Admiral Parker agreed, noting that there was substantial research and science that has been compiled both in the civil sector and in the military as to the climate security nexus, but “the work done regarding climate change and its impact within military intelligence has not been shared and disseminated well because of the politicization of this area.”

Panel from left: Craig Gannett, Lukas Haynes, Vice Admiral (ret.) Robert Parker, and Ian Kraucunas

The politics of climate and climate security were an ever-present backdrop to the two days of discussion.  Craig Gannett voiced guarded optimism that movement at the “sub-national” level – such as the Pacific Coast Collaborative efforts by Washington, Oregon, California and British Columbia to unify and play a leading role despite happenings at the federal level – provides some hope to move us forward.  Admiral Parker added that despite whatever obstacles to progress exist, “the awakening of citizens is a silver-plated lining.  We have an obligation as citizens to learn.”

Craig Gannett, Foundation Vice President, sets the scope of the discussion

The Jackson Foundation emerged from two days of intensive discussions on this issue reenergized and dedicated to continue to target its resources to highlight climate and national security connections – a topic squarely within the Jackson environmental and defense legacies.

Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director

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