A New Vigilance: Identifying and Reducing the Risks of Environmental Terrorism

Published: September 26, 2001
Author: Elizabeth Chalecki
Pages: 19

A Message from Peter H. Gleick, President

The Pacific Institute was created to explore the growing links between environmental issues, economic development, and international security. In recent years, we have become concerned about the threat of terrorism in new and dangerous forms. Yet our military establishments and institutions have been slow to refocus on ethnic, religious, and economic tensions that may now motivate terrorist actions. Even the very nature of terrorism itself is changing. Most recent discussions of terrorism have focused on the identity of the terrorists, their possible motivations, and the increasingly destructive potential of the weapons at their disposal. However, to date, there has been very little discussion about their choice of targets.

An examination of environmental terrorism requires understanding motivations, identifying vulnerabilities and risks, and working on effective solutions. At a time when populations all over the world are increasing, the existing resource base (water, energy, soils, and more) is being stretched to provide for more people, and is being consumed at a faster rate. As the value and vulnerability of these resources increases, so does their attractiveness as terrorist targets.

As part of the Institute’s program on Environment and Security, the Ploughshares Fund recently provided support
to the Institute to prepare a new assessment of the risks of environmental terrorism. We offer the first report from that project below: A New Vigilance: Identifying and Reducing the Risks of Environmental Terrorism (PDF), prepared by the Institute’s Research Associate, Elizabeth L. Chalecki. This report examines the nature and risks of terrorist attacks that use the environment both as a target and a tool. Finally, several ideas for reducing the risk of environmental terrorism are discussed.

Download the report (PDF).

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