The Climate General Book Review

«The Climate General is long overdue (…) such a practical insight into this critical subject area, supported by on-the-ground experience, has long been lacking and is most definitely needed. As a former soldier, ecologist, and sustainability advisor (…) I have literally lived this subject, so the author’s words rang out loud and clear in my ears (…) with the turning of every page.

(…) The links between climate change, sustainability and instability are obvious to those (…) who have been on the ground in high-risk areas dealing on a daily basis with the fallout from human and environmental instability.

Tom Middendorp takes the reader to these conflict areas, which are familiar to most people only from news headlines, and explains the situations on the ground in plain language.

(…) The real value in this book, however, lies not only in highlighting how climate change and unsustainable human activity can influence instability and conflict but, in a typically military fashion, proposing how we can adapt and engineer change, to mitigate or lessen these negative effects.

(…) Drilling down further, he highlights what those collaborations should look like and the eclectic mix of stakeholders who need to be galvanised into action, in much the same way as a military battle group is formed encompassing all the relevant elements to meet an operational requirement.

I would recommend The Climate General to presidents, prime ministers, priests, practitioners and policy makers at every level, as well as plumbers, plasterers, pianists, pastoralists and production line managers. Quite simply, the subject matter affects us all.» Ian Saunders, Senior Consultant, Frontier ESG Advisory Ltd and Vice President at The African Environmental Fim Foundation

« The Climate General is a clear, wide-ranging and engaging text authored by a former chief of the defence staff of the Netherlands, General Tom Middendorp, and his speechwriter, Antonie van Campen. Targeted at a mainstream readership, it is structured into two parts: part one (12 chapters) describes how climate change is creating and amplifying insecurity around the world and part two (10 chapters) focuses on possible military and wider responses.

(…) The book is a powerful call to arms and asserts that world leaders should “wage a war” against “the degradation of the Earth”. This resonates with a point I made to the UK’s House of Commons Defence Committee in February 2023: “If an adversary was attacking our cities with floods, fires and bio-weapons, threatening to take away our drinking water and destroy our food security, our agriculture and our food supply, causing untold economic harm, the response would be total war.”

The authors take an optimistic position whilst making clear that the climate security challenge is enormous, its effects are at once complex and frightening and mitigation costs vast (albeit cheaper than non-action over the long term). Beyond the book, positively, there is what might be called an emerging ‘general perspective’ on the need to respond to climate change as a national security priority. Notwithstanding the proclamations of the current UN Secretary General and a number of his predecessors, Generals Bell (US), Ghazi (Pakistan), Muniruzzaman (Bangladesh), Nugee (UK) and Singh (India), for example, have also made great contributions in galvanising attention and defence-related climate action.

In short, The Climate General is an excellent and accessible gateway into the issue of climate security. If there is a key takeaway, it is that adaptation is not a defeat but a critical line of defence. » Tim Clack, Chingiz Gutseriev Fellow at University of Oxford, Director of the Climate Change & (In)Security Project (Oxford-CHACR) in The British Army Review, p. 61-62

« In Afghanistan, Somalia, Mali and the Arctic region, the close link between climate and security has long been proven, explains General Middendorp in an astonishing book, The Climate General, based on his long experience in the field. All the more reason to put in place a real war plan against global warming? Humanity managed to do it with the coronavirus. But time is running out. As another general, Douglas McArthur, Chief of Staff of the US Army in the 1930s, said : the history of failure in war can almost always be summed up in two words: too late ». Sébastien JulianL’Express, France

“The perfect read for the flight home from The Munich Security Conference. (…) climate change isn’t going to wait for the wars in Ukraine or Gaza to end. Even admist acute crises, we must continue to integrate a climate lens into foreign & security policies to ensure a more resilient future. » Erin Sikorski, Director, Center for Climate & Security, Washington DC

« A must-read for all working on water, climate and security » Henk Ovink, Executive Director, Global Commission on the Economics of Water, Former First Special Envoy for International Water Affairs, The Netherlands

« Tom is The Climate General – he is a former general and the commander of The Netherlands armed forces, and now one of the leading experts on the nexus between climate and security. His new book is a must read for those who want to understand how climate change is reshaping geopolitics. » Wopke Hoekstra, Commissioner for Climate Action, European Commission

« We recommend The Climate General to anyone keen on understanding the multifaceted challenges posed by climate change, and more importantly, the solutions and strategies that can lead us to a better tomorrow. » Ban Ki-moon and Feike Sijbesma, Co-chairs of the Supervisory Board, Global Center on Adaptation