The UK Climate Resilience Programme ran from 2019 to 2023

Ministry of Defence – Embedded Researcher pitch

Interest in climate resilience

Leading on from the recently published Climate Change and Sustainability Strategic Approach the Ministry of Defence (MOD) is now looking to develop its understanding of where adaptation, resilience and the resilience of others should be focused from the perspective of UK defence and security. MOD intends to achieve this through improving its ability to anticipate the risks of a changing climate, and to integrate the anticipated physical effects, and as far as possible the potential political volatility which might be expected, into its strategy formulation and its processes (e.g. force development – military capability planning).

Development in this area will be advanced through the creation of a horizon scanning capability; a tool or platform that bridges science and academia, analytical capabilities in government, towards better-informed decision making and planning around climate risk. Meeting the requirements of its new Strategic Approach, the MOD’s horizon scanning capability intends to use the convening power of the MOD, partners inside and outside government, the most advanced scientific knowledge and data modelling available, to inform how UK’s defence and security is maintained despite anticipated climate disruptions.

Motivation for being involved in the scheme

Recognising climate resilience is not something which can be developed in isolation, expertise is spread widely, and there are layers of knowledge bases required to advance horizon scanning, MOD is keen to fuse academic expertise and others’ into its policy and practice on climate resilience. As the MOD lays its foundation for climate resilience, we recognise the need to harness expertise from a dedicated researcher/ research team and the benefits of external viewpoints and networks.

Our aim is for the researcher/team to bring together stakeholders, share knowledge and best practice, whilst also gathering expertise already existing within the department and across government, to build the internal capacity and understanding. We hope they will identify and expand the frontier of knowledge needed towards a robust evidenced decision-making informational tool. The Embedded Research programme offers us the opportunity of bringing external scrutiny to the design, trial, test, validation, iteration and/or evaluation of the horizon scanning tool.

Ideas for research topics or knowledge brokering activities

The Embedded Researcher/team would assist in development of the horizon scanning tool, prospectively a/several element(s) of its: design, trial, test, validation, iteration and/or evaluation. This will depend on the relationship brokered and progress of development at the point of the team starting their work.

Strawman research questions which could be relevant to the study might include: what are the possible parameters or variables of a MOD horizon-scanning capability on climate risk?; what is the best architecture for the capability and its integration across the national security and defence system?; How holistic can horizon scanning on climate risk/ futures attempt to be, overlaying climate variation with other factors while still remaining accurate and evidence-based?; How should climate risk and the significant uncertainties be communicated and filter through the defence and security system, ensuring decision-makers are climate-aware (e.g. visualisations; scenarios; prompter questions); How far and to what extent can machine learning be utilised to provide dynamic modelling of long-term climate risk, as knowledge progresses and changes about these risks?; How can packages from the data help partners outside of MOD, and across the world, in formulating adaptive policies or programmes, including outside defence and security?

MOD would provide access as a knowledge broker to wider government’s strategic, analytical, scientific and digital community as well as to international partners through its networks of defence attaches at UK embassies. Our own capabilities (e.g. dstl and UK Hydrographic Office) are significant, and given the interest in climate security and the global perspective of the UK as a thought leader in climate security, this project is highly likely to provide engagement opportunities and potential collaboration with international partners too.

A base-level requirement of the Strategic Approach is for informational tool and prompter questions for decision-makers inside defence and the military HQs, for determining requirements (e.g. the resilience of equipment, materials and personnel) which we can share with other defences towards climate-aware planning. The intention, if possible, is to go far beyond this and explore the opportunities with wider security, diplomatic, development communities and perhaps public engagement.

Get in touch with the Ministry of Defence

Researchers who would like to discuss this Embedded Researcher pitch with the Ministry of Defence should contact Adam Coe on

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