“I welcome the president’s new policy and actions regarding climate change and national security. The national security community must lead in better understanding and countering the risks that our changing climate and ocean present to global (and thus national) security. If we do not act now, these changes will undoubtedly exacerbate geo-political instability and compound security concerns around the world and will reduce the ability of the United States and our allies to respond to threats as our own security infrastructure is compromised.”
-RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.); M.S.
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership
Today, President Obama signed a Presidential Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security, a historic measure in addressing the national security implications of our changing climate. The memorandum establishes a policy to consider the impacts of climate change in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans and provides practical guidance to ensure these climate risks are considered. This includes the establishment of a Federal Climate and National Security Working Group (consisting of more than 20 federal agencies and offices), which will identify priorities related to climate change and national security; facilitate the exchange of climate data and information with the intelligence community and identify gaps; recommend research guidelines concerning the federal government’s ability to detect climate intervention activities; identify the most current information on regional, country, and geographic areas most vulnerable to current and projected impacts of climate variability for the next 30 years; and develop recommendations for the Secretary of State to help ensure the work of U.S. embassies are better informed by relevant climate change-related analyses. The memorandum also directs individual agencies to create Implementation Plans to address climate-related threats to national security; identify economic considerations arising from the impacts of climate change globally and the resulting specific impacts on national security, human mobility, global water and food security, nutrition, public health, and infrastructure; identify climate change-related risks to agency missions; and identify risks that may be caused by agency policies, programs, and actions concerning international development objectives, fragility, and regional stability.
Strengthening the president’s memorandum is a National Intelligence Council report that was also released today. The report found that climate change is already having serious impacts that are “likely to pose significant national security challenges for the United States over the next two decades,” including stresses on military operations and bases. The report identifies specific pathways through which climate-related national security disruptions, which are occurring now, will create national security challenges over the next two decades. These pathways include overwhelming a state’s capacity to respond or recover, undermining its authority and leading to large-scale political instability; decreasing water and disputes over access to arable land increasing the risk of conflict between people who share these water resources and land; contributing to migrations that exacerbate social and political tensions, some of which could overwhelm host governments and population; and straining the capacity of the U.S. and allied forces to deliver humanitarian aid and disaster relief.