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CSECP member Francesca Kilpatrick has written a new article reflecting on the value of framing climate change as a security issue, for Rethinking Security, a network of UK-based organisations, academics and activists working on an alternative approach to national security that addresses underlying causes of conflict. Francesca is a PhD Researcher in climate communications, interested in the use of security narratives within contemporary climate activism and policymaking.  

Francesca explores the usefulness and risk of discussing climate change as an issue of national security, and looks at the changes to climate policy and the political environment under the Obama administration as an example. Outlining first the power and priority of the national security frame and security institutions, she considers how this momentum can be mobilised to overcome obstructive political bodies, such as the hostile and climate-sceptical Republican Congress during Obama’s presidency. Framing climate change as a security issue can put necessary policy action beyond the realm of most political debate, by emphasising vulnerability, timescales and institutional power. In the hyper-military environment of the War on Terror, climate change was framed as a ‘threat multiplier’, causing or intensifying violent conflict – combatting it was therefore part of counterterrorist action and in alignment with other US interventionist policy. The creation of a climate ‘enemy’ was key to legitimising legislation like the Clean Power Plan and the Climate Security Act, which brought Democrat and Republican senators together for bipartisan cooperation in the name of national security. Francesca concludes that whilst the climate security frame is not without its pitfalls, its utility for moving political obstructions means it is a tool the climate policymaker cannot do without. 

The full text of the article is available here  

Biography: Francesca Kilpatrick is a Doctoral Researcher in climate communications, looking at how security and insecurity is conceptualised within the UK climate movement. Her PhD is funded by the ESRC South Coast Doctoral Training Partnership. She is Senior Editor of Interfere Journal for Critical Theory and Radical Politics, which is produced by the UoB postgraduate community.