Federal Coordinating Lead Author:
Meredith Muth, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Chapter Lead:
Joel B. Smith, Abt Associates
Chapter Authors:
Alice Alpert, U.S. Department of State
James L. Buizer, University of Arizona
Jonathan Cook, World Resources Institute (formerly U.S. Agency for International Development)
Apurva Dave, U.S. Global Change Research Program/ICF
John Furlow, International Research Institute for Climate and Society, Columbia University
Kurt Preston, U.S. Department of Defense
Peter Schultz, ICF
Lisa Vaughan, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration
Review Editor:
Diana Liverman, University of Arizona
USGCRP Coordinators:
Apurva Dave, International Coordinator and Senior Analyst

Climate Effects on U.S. International Interests

U.S. international interests, such as economics and trade, international development and humanitarian assistance, national security, and transboundary resources, are affected by impacts from climate change, variability, and extreme events. Long-term changes in climate could lead to large-scale shifts in the global availability and prices of a wide array of agricultural, energy, and other goods, with corresponding impacts on the U.S. economy. Some U.S.-led businesses are already working to reduce their exposure to risks posed by a changing climate.

U.S. investments in international development are sensitive to climate-related impacts and will likely be undermined by more frequent and intense extreme events, such as droughts, floods, and tropical cyclones. These events can impede development efforts and result in greater demand for U.S. humanitarian assistance and disaster relief. In response, the U.S. government has funded adaptation programs that seek to reduce vulnerability to climate impacts in critical sectors.

Climate change, variability, and extreme events increase risks to national security through direct impacts on U.S. military infrastructure and, more broadly, through the relationship between climate-related stress on societies and conflict. Direct linkages between climate and conflict are unclear, but climate variability has been shown to affect conflict through intermediate processes, including resource competition, commodity price shocks, and food insecurity. The U.S. military is working to fully understand these threats and to incorporate projected climate changes into long-term planning.

The impacts of changing weather and climate patterns across U.S. international borders affect those living in the United States. The changes pose new challenges for the management of shared and transboundary resources. Many bilateral agreements and public–private partnerships are incorporating climate risk and adaptive management into their near- and long-term strategies.

U.S. cooperation with international and other national scientific organizations improves access to global information and strategic partnerships, which better positions the Nation to observe, understand, assess, and respond to the impacts associated with climate change, variability, and extremes on national interests both within and outside of U.S. borders.


Transboundary Climate-Related Impacts

Shown here are examples of climate-related impacts spanning U.S. national borders. (left) The North American Drought Monitor map for June 2011 shows drought conditions along the US–Mexico border. Darker colors indicate greater intensity of drought (the letters A and H indicate agricultural and hydrological drought, respectively). (right) Smoke from Canadian wildfires in 2017 was detected by satellite sensors built to detect aerosols in the atmosphere. The darker orange areas indicate higher concentrations of smoke and hazy conditions moving south from British Columbia to the United States. From Figure 16.4 (Sources: [left] adapted from NOAA 2018,114 [right] adapted from NOAA 2018115).

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