Sherri Goodman: The Urgent Need To Understand The Magnitude Of Climate Change

"People in Wyoming know the retreat of the glaciers that has happened within our lifetime, and you know, the climate effects are very evident across Wyoming. I mean, in Yellowstone, summers are projected to be 13 degrees hotter than the current average by 2100. Heat wave days in Wyoming are projected to increase by five-fold by 2050" - Sherri Goodman

Sherri Goodman is Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security, a member of its Advisory Board, Chair of the Board of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR), and Secretary General of the International Military Council on Climate and Security (IMCCS).

Sherri served as Senior Vice President and General Counsel of CNA (Center for Naval Analyses)  where she was also the founder and Executive Director of the CNA Military Advisory Board, whose landmark reports include National Security and the Threat of Climate Change (2007), and National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change (2014),  Advanced Energy and US National Security (2017), and The Role of Water Stress in Instability and Conflict (2017) among others.  The film The Age of Consequences  in which Sherri is featured, is based on the work of the CNA Military Advisory Board.Sherri Goodman is an experienced leader and senior executive, lawyer and director in the fields of national security, energy, science, oceans and environment.  She is co-founder of Red Duke Strategies, a strategic advisory firm, Senior Fellow at the Woodrow Wilson International Center and CNA, and Senior Strategist at the Center for Climate and Security.  Previously, she served as the President and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership.

March 16 - 17 Jackson WY The Jackson Hole Global Forum: Climate and National Security, hosted by the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs in partnership with the Center for Climate and Security will bring U.S. and global military leaders, security professionals, business executives, policy leaders and citizens together to advance policy and business steps that respond to the security implications of a changing climate.

Sherri Goodman (00:00):

People in Wyoming know. You know the retreat of the glaciers that has happened within our lifetimes and, you know, the climate effects are very evident across Wyoming. I mean, in Yellowstone, summers are projected to be 13 degrees hotter than the current average by 2100. Heat wave days in Wyoming are projected to increase by five fold by 2050.

Emy diGrappa (00:27):

Hello, my name is Emy diGrappa. Each week, we bring you stories, asking our guests the question why. We learn about passion purpose and the human experience, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities, with the generous support of the Wyoming Community Foundation. This is What's your Why.

Today. We are talking to Sherri Goodman. Sherri Goodman is a senior strategist at the Center for Climate and Security. Welcome Sherri.

Sherri Goodman (01:07):

Good afternoon.

Emy diGrappa (01:08):

Well, thank you. And after reading your bio, as I was telling you earlier, it was just very extensive and in depth and so much leadership and what you've done over the past years. And I want to know ... For you to tell us personally about how you got in to climate change and national security, how this became your passion and your work.

Sherri Goodman (01:32):

You know, what, as someone who grew up, uh, during the cold war, I was initially most concerned about what I saw to be the biggest challenges at that time, which was a bolt out of the blue nuclear attack by the Soviet Union. And in my early years, I dove deep into defense analysis, and I worked on the Senate Armed Services Committee on Nuclear Strategy and Arms Control to try to manage the ... What was the most serious threat during the cold war. And then I worked in the department of defense in the 1990s, when we became aware that we had, in addition to the nuclear threat, we be- had other challenges such as environmental challenges. Uh, and then in the 2000s I began working with a group of military leaders, uh, on climate change as a national security threat.

Emy diGrappa (02:33):

Well, that's been a, a long road really. And, you know, because your background and, and growing up, when did climate change become so well researched and, and become even a national debate, and when did people just start really just getting into what are the facts and what is it causing, and then involving the military? And it's probably been going on a lot than I can imagine.

Sherri Goodman (03:02):

Well, there's been research going on within the defense and intelligence ... Defense department and the intelligence community for decades and, and was not widely circulating and appreciated in the, um, you know, years ago. When I served in the department of defense in the 1990s, we were primarily concerned with cleaning up all military bases from hazardous and other contaminants and, um, conserving natural resources, uh, and working to advance international military to military environmental cooperation and all that work continues today.

                 Um, but as we moved into, um, this current century, we became much more aware of changing weather and temperature patterns as they affect, um, military operations and military activities. And so we gathered senior, uh, scientists from our leading, uh, institutions and spent a year with leading military, um, retired senior military from all four services in the 2006, 2007 timeframe, which is a first time that really the mil- the US military, uh, devoted a considerable effort, uh, to try to understand the national security implications of climate change.

Emy diGrappa (04:34):

And that's what I found, what was so interesting is that it, isn't just as simple as saying our climate is changing, you know, but that, how does it actually affect national security, the fact that the climate is changing?

Sherri Goodman (04:51):

Well, we, we frame it as a threat multiplier in that the changing, uh, climate, the weather, um, changing weather patterns are disruptive and, and add to other threats that we face around the world, whether it's, um, uh, terrorist organizations and extremist groups, and now being able to take advantage of dis- of, um, displaced populations who have become displaced because food and water are increasingly scarce with growing drought and rising heat, or the extreme weather events such as the hurricanes and the wildfires that we now experience in our own country, um, on a regular basis, so that we now actually have to position our forces, our military forces to help, uh, support our first responders to either flooding, or hurricane events or even wildfires, which affects our overall deployment of forces around the world.

Emy diGrappa (06:03):

And when you explain it like that and, and in just those layman terms, it makes sense. But when you're, you know, thinking about how those two things connect, until you really can understand and look at it from a military standpoint, and the other part of that is that, like you said, um, displaced populations and how that does become a threat to national security. And I know you're working at a very high level, but, you know, going down the line, how do you perceive that the public is receiving these messages?

Sherri Goodman (06:40):

Well, I think people experience it where they live and, and how they carry out their lives. So, um, you know, people who live al- along the coast for example, are seeing sea levels rise and coastal storms become more intense. Um, if we just take as an example, uh, Norfolk, Virginia, where we have the largest complex of military facilities in the United States, perhaps in the world, um, this is now an area that experiences regular sunny day flooding. Sunny day flooding because of a combination of rising seas, and coastal storm surge, and coastal inundation. And so they have to adapt, and change their practices just to enable people who live in the community to get to base sometimes because their roads are flooded. Um, and people who are living, um, out West at, you know, in Wyoming and other Western areas have seen an increase in wildfires, increase in drought conditions, uh, and increase in heat. Um, and all of that, all of that is being experienced with varying levels of, um, intensity at different places around the world.

                 We live in an era of the greatest global migration since world war two. And I, I should add that, you know, my own parents were, were Holocaust refugees, and were fortunate enough to be able to migrate to the United States during that really vast wave of, of global displacement. Now we have people migrating for a variety of reasons, many of them fleeing political persecution and more in destruction. But m-much of that now is aggravated by growing drought and water scarcity conditions and food scarcity people leave when they can't get enough food and water to take care of their families, or they can't maintain their livelihoods, whether it had been farming or herding ranching. Um, and we see that now increasingly, um, in water starved, parched regions of the world,

Emy diGrappa (09:00):

Just hearing that made me really depressed, but because, (laughs), because it, it does sound, um, astronomical and what's gonna help? Really? What, what is gonna help mitigate climate change?

Sherri Goodman (09:16):

Well, you know there are ... It's, it's two sides of the same ... Of, of the same coin. One, you know, we are in the middle of, um, a, a vast energy transition, which we have been in historically, you know, uh, over many decades in the US. If you look at the transition from energy sources, from wood to coal, to steam, to oil, nuclear power came along in the, uh, you know, in the last century. And now, um, we are able to move towards more advanced forms of energy, including renewables, advanced nuclear, uh, hydro, and certainly we're ... We have a mix of fuels, but as all of that leads to a lower carbon energy future. Um, so we need to, uh, up our game in terms of American innovation and ingenuity in advancing that, much of that is happening already today in various parts of our own country and around the world.

                 And the second piece of that is, um, making our communities and our infrastructure resilient, uh, resilient to changing climate impact. And for example, that might need in coastal communities, combination of building seawalls, but also improving natural infrastructure, uh, such as, um, mangroves and dunes and beaches. And so it's a combination of built and the natural infrastructure, um, in drought, um, stricken areas of our country, it's thinking more smartly about how we manage water. Um, countries for example, like Israel recycle the vast majority of their water and have turned a desert ... Uh, made the desert bloom over the last half century. We would ... We have the ability to recycle and be much smarter, for example, in our water use. Um, and I believe those kinds of innovations, as well as moving towards, um, smart, low carbon policies, will help us build a resilient future.

                 Also, we have more foresight today, you know, although we face this unprecedented risk from climate threats, we also have greater predictive capability. Um, and some of that, you know, also of course at research labs, even in, um, Wyoming, where we are learning as part of a university cooperation for atmospheric research, we're learning how to advance, um, weather forecasts. And, you know, already in our lifetime weather forecasts have gone from being reliable for two days, to being reliable for six days. An improvement that I think most Americans don't appreciate, and that's because of our advances in science and technology and predictive capability for weather. We're now being able to approach more a two week, uh, predictive capability, what's called seasonal to sub seasonal forecasting. And with that comes, um, smarter ways of managing both responses to extreme weather events, but managing every sector of society. How you plant, what you plant, uh, transportation, um, water management, various forms of, um, uh, ranching, other types of farming. And that's going to change, um, much of society as we have this improved predictive capability to understand better, um, the changing, uh, weather, the more rapidly changing weather cycles in which we now live.

Emy diGrappa (13:20):

Yeah, and I think change is slow. I think it's changing behavior. And I think that that takes a lot longer than just, um, understanding, you know, how you're predicting the weather and you're right. I, I actually don't appreciate it. (laughs) I always think, "Okay, I'll read the weather, but I bet tomorrow when I go online and read it again, it's probably going to be different." (laughs) So I'm, I'm very skeptical, but I still am trying to understand how, how we at a grassroots level change behavior for like say green gas emissions, or the use of plastics in the environment, or just, you know, some of the really habitual things that we do and can't appreciate how it affects climate.

Sherri Goodman (14:11):

Right. Well, you, you just raised a great, great example. I mean, in sort of plastics, right? Plastics are pervasive throughout society.

Emy diGrappa (14:19):


Sherri Goodman (14:21):

Um, we know, um, uh, how much harm plastics, everything from, you know, your plastic bag to your plastic straw, to larger uses of plastics, how much pollution that has caused both .... Particularly in our oceans to marine mammals, um, to sea, to sea birds, to others. Um, and so, you know, every little small step, you know, whether it's in your house, whether it's recycling or not using plastic, or whether greater policies that reduce, uh, the role of plastics in various, um, types of uses, all of that matters from the individual action, um, to the larger policy initiative.

                 And, you know, from my own experience in the department of defense, I see how, um, important and powerful it is to model and to lead by example. Um, when I first joined the department of defense in 1993, we didn't have, for example, recycling of paper, uh, in the department defense, because at that time it costs a little bit more to buy recycled paper than to buy, um, non recycled paper. And I ... Initially I had a hard time, uh, convincing the leadership in the Pentagon that it was really worth the largest office building in the world using recycled paper.

Emy diGrappa (15:47):


Sherri Goodman (15:47):

Um, but I kept pushing at that finally I did an earth day event with the secretary of defense and, uh, we, we had a recycling event and after that, all the paper was recycled. So, uh, and that spread throughout, uh, the department of defense and those kinds of policies and practices, um, can be ... Can be modeled both at big scales, like in the department of defense and in individual communities, uh, you know, in, in Wyoming there's many smaller communities and many of them, um, can lead just by their own, by their own practices. And I've seen that, seen those initiatives when I've been out in some smaller Western communities.

Emy diGrappa (16:31):

Yeah. And, and it is happening, and that's what I, I just get really concerned in terms of, you know, on, on that real basic level of human behavior, what are we doing to change human behavior or to educate people, or even, you know, just like, uh, in Jackson, they have no plastic bags at the grocery stores or any place anywhere you go, you are ... You have to use your own bags. And I think sometimes in order to change behavior, you have to, you know, as communities say, "Okay, we're not going to have plastic, use plastic bags in our community anymore." Because that will be the only way to truly change people's behavior.

Sherri Goodman (17:16):

Well, you know, that setting standards and rules, uh, and rules of the road can be very helpful in improving, um, improving behavior and, you know, ultimately enable- enabling people to see, you know, the costs of, um, of, of their actions. So that's also more, more openness and more disclosure, uh, is also very, very helpful.

Emy diGrappa (17:43):

Well, my last question, because I understand that you have this expertise on the Arctic, and one of the questions that we had always planned to ask you, because you are an expert on the Arctic, is what do you think the Arctic's gonna look like in 20 years, if nothing changes in terms of carbon emissions?

Sherri Goodman (18:03):

Well, you know, the Arctic is where we're seeing the most dramatic, uh, effects of the changing climate. Uh, sea ice is retreating, permafrost, permafrost is collapsing, um, and temperatures are rising. Uh, we will likely have ice-free summers in the Arctic, uh, within the next quarter century. And that means a lot more transit and shipping and human activity in the, in the Arctic. Um, and that's deeply concerning one because, um, US, for example, is not yet really prepared to operate in an ice free Arctic. We have limited icebreaking capability now, although we are building, uh, our first new ice breaker in a quarter century right now, uh, but Russia has 40 ice breakers and is building more and has 40 nuclear power plants, um, and [inaudible 00:19:03] sees the Northern sea route along its coastline as an Arctic toll road for shipping and transit in the future. Uh, even China has a very deliberate Arctic policy and strategy, uh, creating a polar silk road, bridging it's belt and road initiative around the Arctic and being able to shift from Shanghai to Hamburg and ports in Europe in the future. So, uh, the world is changing rapidly and we have to be, uh, we have to be prepared for those changes and that's very, very important.

Emy diGrappa (19:41):

It's so serious. I mean, you watch any shows, uh, documentaries on the Arctic, and it's just mind boggling that what is happening at the rate is happening. And even here in Wyoming, where we have so many glaciers, um, and the studies that they're doing about the glaciers that are melting and deteriorating and going away. So ...

Sherri Goodman (20:06):

Yes, you've seen, I mean, people in Wyoming know, you know, the retreat of the glaciers that has happened within our lifetimes and, you know, the climate effects are very evident across Wyoming. I mean, in Yellowstone, summers are projected to be 13 degrees hotter than the current average by 2100. Heat wave days in Wyoming are projected to increase by five fold by 2050, um, from about 10 to about 50 days a year. So those are very real impacts. And wildfires, for example, are now 10 times more common than they used to be. Uh, and the area burned is up to 40 times greater in Wyoming, in Idaho and in Montana. Um, and there's also, uh, projections of an increase in the severity of widespread summer drought. Summer drought, uh, increase of approximately 40% by 2050, and that's going to affect, um, many people across Wyoming. Um, so these are ... These are all happening now, and that's why it's important, uh, that we understand how to build a more resilient future and move to a low carbon future.

Emy diGrappa (21:24):

Oh my gosh, it's been so great talking to Sherri and I really look forward to seeing you here in Jackson and thank you for your time. And I want to just say that the Jackson Hole Global Forum, 2020 Climate Change National Security, uh, Sherri will be one of the presenters, uh, March 16th and 17th in Jackson Hole. And we want you to register and go to And that is the Jackson Hole Center for Global Affairs website. Thank you, Sherri. Have a great afternoon.

Sherri Goodman (21:59):

Thank you Emy.

Emy diGrappa (22:00):

All right.

Sherri Goodman (22:00):

You too.

Emy diGrappa (22:01):

Okay, bye.

Sherri Goodman (22:02):

Bye bye.

Emy diGrappa (22:07):

Thank you for joining us for this episode of What's your Why, brought to you by Wyoming Humanities with support from Wyoming Community Foundation and generous supporters like you to learn more, go to, subscribe and never miss a show.