White House To Form Committee To Deny Climate National Security Risk

Photo illustration: Phil Plait, SyFyWire.com

Three weeks ago, and for the second year in a row, the Director of National Intelligence, former Republican Senator Dan Coats, testified to Congress that environmental degradation and climate change are global threats to U.S. national security stating that they are, “likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.”  Now, the White House National Security Team is planning to push back — it has called a meeting of the Deputies of several Cabinet agencies tomorrow to discuss creating a “committee” to look at the question of whether climate change poses a national security threat, according to documents leaked to The Washington Post.

  • Specifically, this year’s National Intelligence Assessment, a compilation of the threat information that can be made public by the government, said, “Climate hazards such as extreme weather, higher temperatures, droughts, floods, wildfires, storms, sea level rise, soil degradation, and acidifying oceans are intensifying, threatening infrastructure, health, and water and food security. Irreversible damage to ecosystems and habitats will undermine the economic benefits they provide, worsened by air, soil, water, and marine pollution.’
  • Just last month the Defense Department reported to Congress that climate change is “a national security issue,” said that rising seas, wildfires and other such disasters are likely to create more severe problems for the military in the coming years, and pointed to several dozen military installations around the nation already are experiencing climate impacts.

Sally Yozell, Director of the Environmental Security Program at the Stimson Center, a defense think tank, said “climate change is an accelerant for humanitarian and natural disasters, with the potential for conflict and insecurity particularly in developing nations lacking governance.  It’s unconscionable to question our intelligence community, whose experts understand this growing threat to U.S. national security.”  The committee will be established by Executive Order and called the Presidential Committee on Climate Security, and will allegedly be led by William Happer, a National Security Council staffer.  According to The Post, Happer is a former professor of physics at Princeton University and does not believe that carbon emissions linked to climate change should be viewed as a pollutant.

Why This Matters:  The intelligence agencies are not easily intimidated or bullied — they will stick to their guns that climate change is a threat regardless of what the new committee says.  But both the Assessment and the DoD Report hardly do the topic justice.  Yes, there are many security threats around the world, but climate change is buried in the Intelligence Assessment and while the language is accurate that there are grave risks, the level of detail and rigor around the level of risk is not on par with the other threats evaluated.  Maybe that was done to avoid this kind of push back from the White House. But these assessments need to be credible and climate change is given short shrift, and that is not good for our preparedness to meet this growing threat.

Up Next

A Few House Republicans Hold a Climate Change Confab

“You can’t find a Utahn who doesn’t really care about clean air and clean water.” @RepJohnCurtis said his goal is to find ways “to make them feel more comfortable [politically] talking about it.” @LeeDavi49903322 #climate https://t.co/jVpPBJq0GE — CCL Salt Lake City (@CCLsaltlake) February 19, 2021 By Natasha Lasky, ODP Staff Writer Representative John Curtis of […]

Continue Reading 472 words
U.N. Security Council Focuses Climate Risks

U.N. Security Council Focuses Climate Risks

Climate change is the biggest threat facing the world, and yesterday’s United Nations Security Council meeting was focused on the topic. United States climate envoy John Kerry, who participated in the virtual meeting, warned that ignoring the crisis and its threats to global security would mean “marching forward to what is almost tantamount to a mutual suicide pact.” 

Why this Matters: Global food security, poverty rates, and public health are all negatively impacted by climate change. These destabilizing forces are already driving people to migrate and shifting power balances on the international stage.

Continue Reading 518 words
The U.S. Officially Rejoins Paris Agreement

The U.S. Officially Rejoins Paris Agreement

On Friday, the U.S. officially rejoined the Paris Agreement on climate change. Just under one month into his term, President Biden has officially reversed one major element of Trump’s intended legacy, and climate officials across the globe are welcoming our nation back with open arms. 

Why This Matters: The last four years proved to be a disaster for the climate.

Continue Reading 559 words

Want the planet in your inbox?

Subscribe to the email that top lawmakers, renowned scientists, and thousands of concerned citizens turn to each morning for the latest environmental news and analysis.