HealthLawProf Blog

Editor: Katharine Van Tassel
Case Western Reserve University School of Law

Monday, April 11, 2022

Climate Security Insights from the COVID-19 Response

Mark Nevitt (Syracuse University), Climate Security Insights from the COVID-19 Response, Indiana L. J. (forthcoming):

The climate change crisis and ongoing COVID-19 crisis are both complex collective action problems. Neither the coronavirus nor Greenhouse Gas (GHG) emissions respect political borders. Both impose an opportunity cost that penalizes inaction. They are also increasingly understood as non-traditional, novel security threats. Indeed, COVID-19’s human cost is staggering, with American lives lost vastly exceeding those lost in recent armed conflicts. And climate change is now conceptualized as both a threat accelerant and a catalyst for conflict—a characterization reinforced in several climate-security reports. To counter COVID-19, the President has even embraced martial language, stating that he will employ a “wartime footing” to “defeat the virus.” Perhaps not surprisingly, the military has played a critical role in the government’s pandemic response. The National Guard has staffed hospitals, vaccinations sites, and schools. As we commence our third year of pandemic response, what insights are emerging that will inform our climate response? This Article identifies and analyzes several, focusing on the growing relationship between health security and climate security. These insights—particularly the U.S. domestic military response and how we conceptualize “security”—have normative implications for future climate governance efforts and disaster response.

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