Climate Change and Canadian Security: A Growing Imperative

Climate Change and Canadian Security: A Growing Imperative
Photo by Redd F on Unsplash.

In recent years, climate change has emerged as a central factor in Canadian security discourse. Traditionally, security discussions in Canada have focused on military threats, border security, and international relations. However, the escalating impacts of climate change are forcing policymakers and security experts to reassess and broaden their perspectives. Here, we explore the evolving intersection of climate change and Canadian security, highlighting the reasons behind this paradigm shift and the measures being taken to address the emerging challenges.

Canada, known for its vast landscapes, abundant natural resources, and diverse ecosystems, is increasingly vulnerable to the impacts of climate change. Rising temperatures, melting ice caps, extreme weather events, and changing precipitation patterns pose direct threats to the country’s environmental, economic, and social stability. Recognizing the interconnectedness of climate and security, researchers have increasingly been acknowledging the need to address these issues holistically. This includes academic attention from leading research networks in Canada, such as the North American Arctic Defence and Security Network, the Canadian Defence and Security Network, and the Climate Security Association of Canada, in addition to many research groups within specific universities and research centres.

One of the key security concerns is the impact of climate change on the Arctic region. As Arctic ice continues to melt, new shipping routes are opening, leading to increased human activity in the region. This new activity may lead to the reopening and expanding of geopolitical tensions in the Arctic. The competition for control over these emerging routes and access to valuable natural resources has drawn attention to the strategic importance of the Arctic in Canadian security considerations. Further, a human security perspective on climate change highlights that communities in vulnerable regions such as coastal areas and northern territories are at increased risk of displacement due to rising sea levels and changing environmental conditions. This displacement not only strains domestic resources but also has broader implications for international relations, as Canada may begin to face challenges associated with climate-induced migration.

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The changing climate also amplifies the risk of environmental disasters, such as floods, wildfires, and hurricanes, which have direct implications for human security. In recent years, Canada has experienced an uptick in the frequency and intensity of such events, challenging the country’s emergency response capabilities and infrastructural resilience.

Canada’s economy is intricately linked to its natural resources, including forestry, agriculture, and energy. Climate change poses a threat to the availability and stability of these resources, thus impacting economic security. For instance, disruptions in agricultural productivity due to extreme weather events or changing climate patterns can have far-reaching consequences on food security and economic stability. This has been seen in particular with the ongoing high inflation rates that have plagued Canadians at the grocery store while core inflation has steadily declined over the past couple years.

Additionally, the energy sector—a cornerstone of the Canadian economy—is challenged by the transition to a low-carbon future. As global demand for renewable energy increases, the need to adapt and diversify the energy sector becomes crucial to maintaining economic security and competitiveness on the international stage. Public stimulus for “green economy” projects may help to address the challenge of decarbonization of the economy at a national level, but new industrial developments will often be established far away from where layoffs occur. In both security and economics, Canada faces major challenges when it comes to climate change.

In response to these emerging challenges, Canada has started to integrate climate change considerations into its national security policies. The federal government has recognized the need for a comprehensive and coordinated approach to address the security implications of climate change. Initiatives such as the Canada’s Changing Climate Report and the National Security and Intelligence Committee of Parliamentarians’ Assessment on Climate Change and National Security signal a commitment to understanding and mitigating these risks.

In recognizing the implications of climate change on the Arctic, human security, and economic stability, Canada must take steps to adapt and build resilience.


Furthermore, the Canadian Armed Forces are actively incorporating climate change into their strategic planning. Military leaders are recognizing that the impacts of climate change could exacerbate conflicts and humanitarian crises, requiring a flexible and adaptive approach to security operations. The integration of climate resilience into military infrastructure and operations is becoming a priority to ensure the Armed Forces can effectively respond to emerging challenges. This is becoming a significant issue as the CAF is spending an increasing amount of time on domestic humanitarian assistance and disaster relief operations—an increase which is putting an additional major strain on the CAF, whose resources have already been stretched thin. They are facing an ongoing recruitment crisis, and the Department of National Defence has been asked to cut its budget moving forward.

As climate change increasingly shapes the geopolitical landscape, it is evident that Canadian security discourse and practice must evolve to address this multifaceted threat. The interconnectedness of environmental, economic, and social factors underscores the importance of a holistic approach to security planning. In recognizing the implications of climate change on the Arctic, human security, and economic stability, Canada must take steps to adapt and build resilience.


This research has been funded by the Department of National Defence through a MINDS Targeted Engagement Grant “ClimateThreatX: Climate Change as a Threat Multiplier for Emerging Technologies” held at the Queen’s University Centre for International and Defence Policy. The views and opinions expressed herein do not reflect an official position of the Department of National Defence, Canadian Armed Forces, or the Centre for International and Defence Policy.

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