Climate-related disasters pose dire threats to individuals and communities, often straining state capacity and forcing states to redirect resources to humanitarian response. In fragile contexts, disasters can strain social and political systems to the breaking point, increasing the risk of conflict or humanitarian crises. National militaries increasingly play a key role in areas struck by climate-related emergencies, working alongside civilian responders and often facing calls for increased involvement when civilian capacity is strained. As the frequency and severity of climate-related hazards continue to increase, more information is needed to assess current practices and potential future directions of civil-military cooperation in these emergencies.

This project examines the extent to which countries in NATO and globally have engaged their national militaries in responding to climate-related emergencies. In particular, it explores trends in these responses over time, the degree to which militaries have the resources and mechanisms to prepare for and respond to these emergencies, and the consequences for force readiness from participation in these types of operations.

To analyze national militaries’ involvement in climate-related emergencies, this project develops several novel analytical products. These include:

  • A new dataset on military involvement in climate-related disasters, capturing systematic, comparative data on the scope and nature of military involvement in such disasters,
  • Country profiles on civil-military cooperation in climate-related emergencies for selected countries and 
  • Intergovernmental organization profiles on civil-military cooperation in climate-related emergencies for selected organizations.


Disaster Types

This project explores civil-military cooperation specifically in the context of climate-related disasters. It defines climate-related disasters as those in the climatological, hydrological, and meteorological disaster subgroups in the EM-DAT Disaster Classification System (CRED/UCLouvain 2023a), summarized in Table 1.

Table 1. Disaster types included in this study

Disaster SubgroupDisaster TypeDisaster Subtypes
ClimatologicalGlacial lake outburst floodGlacial lake outburst flood
ClimatologicalWildfireForest fire, land fire, wildfire
HydrologicalFloodCoastal flood, flash flood, flood (general), ice jam flood, riverine flood
HydrologicalMass movement (wet)Avalanche (wet), landslide (wet), mudslide, rockfall (wet), sudden subsidence (wet)
HydrologicalWave actionRogue wave, seiche
MeteorologicalExtreme temperatureCold wave, heat wave, severe winter conditions
MeteorologicalStormBlizzard/winter storm, derecho, extra-tropical storm, hail, lightning/thunderstorm, sand/dust storm, severe weather, storm (general), surge, tornado, tropical cyclone

Source: CRED/UCLouvain 2023a.

Response Locations

The project examines civil-military cooperation in climate-related disasters in both domestic and foreign operations.


A central challenge to examining the extent and evolution of civil-military cooperation in climate-related disasters is the dearth of systematic data on military involvement in such disasters. No country we surveyed for inclusion in the project currently has a national dataset tracking such military operations. There is also no cross-national dataset systematically tracking such military operations.

This project creates the first cross-national dataset on military involvement in climate-related disasters that aims to provide comprehensive coverage for included countries. The dataset includes national military activities in both domestic and foreign civil protection related to climate-related disasters. 

The dataset makes it possible to answer several research questions related to national militaries’ involvement in climate-related disasters—both for individual countries and comparatively across countries—including:

  • What is the level of military involvement in domestic and foreign civil protection with regard to preparing for, responding to, and recovering from climate-related disasters? 
  • What are the patterns and trends in this military involvement in recent years?
  • At what stage and by whom are military personnel called in to assist with climate-related disasters?
  • Who pays for the civil protection activities of the military?
  • How do national militaries’ responses align and differ in responding to the same climate-related disaster?

Dataset Compilation

A central feature of this dataset is its use of national government data as the source for information on national militaries’ involvement in disaster responses. Importantly, we rely on country experts—most of whom are currently working in the country’s government or military—to identify these government data sources. The use of government data, vetted by country experts, provides a systematic process that advances our goals of producing comprehensive coverage within countries and comparable data across countries. The data sources for each country are detailed in the Data Sources section below.

We then use the EM-DAT Emergency Events Database (CRED/UCLouvain 2023b) to identify which military responses to disasters are specifically related to climate-related disasters. We include only those military responses related to climatological, hydrological, and meteorological disasters tracked by EM-DAT, as summarized in Table 1. 

3.2       Dataset Structure

The dataset includes a range of information about the country responding to the disaster, the country receiving assistance, the disaster itself, and the response—for both domestic and foreign disaster operations. This dataset template conveys the fields and structure used to standardize this information for each included country.


This project creates country profiles on civil-military cooperation in climate-related disasters. These include selected NATO countries, as well as NATO partners and other countries globally with high climate security risks and/or high civil or military involvement in climate emergencies. Country profiles include an analysis of the quantitative data collected in the project’s new dataset, as well as details on each country’s legal, funding, and operational frameworks and related policies, procedures, or guidelines on military involvement in climate-related emergencies.

The project also creates profiles of international / intergovernmental organizations (IGOs) to explore these issues as they relate to international coordination mechanisms such as those organized by the EU, IFRC, NATO, and the UN. Country and IGO profiles will build on initial research conducted by the Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability on the use of military resources in disasters (FOGGS 2021).

The country and IGO profiles answer several research questions to assess the nature, extent, and effectiveness of military involvement in climate-related emergencies and to identify good practices across a wide range of national contexts. Depending on the country context, the questions include:

  • What is the legal framework for the military’s use in civil protection? 
  • Does the military have policies for its involvement in climate change mitigation, adaptation, disaster prevention, disaster response, and/or equitable disaster response implementation? 
  • Which military branches and civilian authorities are primarily involved in civil protection? Which tasks are handled by each? Does this differ in domestic and foreign operations? 
  • What are the standard operating procedures for civil-military cooperation in civil protection? 
  • What domestic training and cross-border cooperation exists for such activities? 
  • What multilateral engagement exists through the EU, IFRC, NATO, OSCE, or UN? Are there advantages to having the military do some tasks? Which tasks are best done by civilian agencies? 
  • What are the advantages and disadvantages in having military units specializing in climate-related emergencies, or should all military components be prepared to assist with such tasks? 
  • What effect does military involvement in civil protection have on force composition, recruitment, morale, and retention? 
  • What effect does military involvement in civil protection have on force readiness?


Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)/Université Catholique de Louvain (UC Louvain). 2023a. EM-DAT Documentation. Brussels: CRED/UC Louvain. Available at

Centre for Research on the Epidemiology of Disasters (CRED)/Université Catholique de Louvain (UCLouvain). 2023b. EM-DAT Emergency Events Database. Brussels: CRED/UCLouvain. Available at

Foundation for Global Governance and Sustainability (FOGGS). 2021. Use of Military Resources to Address Natural and Human-Made Disasters. Brussels: FOGGS. Available at