Report summary: Climatising Security Policy: A Panorama and Implications for Denmark

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By Maria Mälksoo and Jens Wenzel Kristoffersen, Centre for Military Studies, November 2022, 115 Pages, Link to full report.


As the problem of addressing climate change grows in its urgency, states must learn how to incorporate climate management strategies into their existing defense policies. This report examines the emerging issues that Denmark must navigate in this regard, comparing the current state of affairs with new challenges at the nexus of global climate and state security policies.

The report analyzes individual states as well as transnational actors, covering NATO, the EU and other important states from the Danish security policy perspective. The report takes note of trends in climate change management through security policies globally, regionally, and nationally to help set the theoretical parameters of future security policy planning for Denmark.

The emerging policies for climate management vary greatly from state to state. The report maps the various actors in global efforts, identifying their objectives and specific characteristics. It notes that many Western actors have leadership ambitions concerning climate policy, and that other actors, like China or Russia, oppose addressing climate change through the lens of security politics.

While integration of climate change into security strategies is widely supported in the West, the report argues that actual plans are often very general, unsystematic and declaratory. It notes that mitigating the effects of the climate crisis is a complex collective action problem, which requires rethinking states’ international security objectives. The report addresses these many challenges which states face in creating and implementing comprehensive new security policies, which often conflict with previously-implemented policies or other, more pressing security concerns.

The report argues that there is no commonly accepted definition of what ‘climate security’ actually entails. It notes that states must pay careful attention to diverging concepts, objects, and types of climate-related security when creating policy. It details the implications for Denmark’s role in NATO and considers also the potential implications for its upcoming UN candidature. Finally, alongside other considerations, the report details three main suggestions for North Atlantic security policy experts to consider:

Security Impacts: Distinguish between direct and indirect security impacts of climate change in shaping collective policy responses in short- and long-term perspectives alike.

Sensibility: Integrate a climate change sensibility (or responsiveness to climate change) into all levels of security and defence policy planning and delivery.

Monitoring: Coordinate climate change-related monitoring, information exchange, and cooperation activities systematically through NATO and the EU.


This summary is written by Anna Thomsen, Intern at the Danish Foreign Policy Society on a Metcalf Research Grant from the University of Chicago and undergraduate student at the University of Chicago studying Political Science and Eastern European Studies, with a focus on the Balkans as well as the Russia-Ukraine war.

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