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Hearing on Department of Homeland Security and Climate Change

Hearing on Department of Homeland Security and Climate Change

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On Wednesday, July 8, 2015, the Subcommittee on Oversight and Management Efficiency of the House Committee on Homeland Security will hold a hearing on how the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) is addressing the threats of climate change.

While the title of the hearing is “Examining DHS’s Misplaced Focus on Climate Change,” it is entirely appropriate for DHS to prepare for the impacts of climate change.

The facts are clear: the world is warming. The temperature record is indisputable. Since 1900, air temperatures increased by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, with most of that since the 1970s. The warmest decade on record was the 2000’s, with each of the previous three decades warmer than the decade before. Since 1900, global sea levels have risen 150 mm, and the rate is increasing. We see worrying increases in the intensity and frequency of extreme weather, both here and around the world.

For DHS or any other national security agency of the government to ignore such facts in their threat assessments would be akin to how the CIA ignored the threats of al Qaeda in the 1990s or how the military ignored the threat Japanese air strikes posed to Pearl Harbor. National security preparation is about risk management and planning for all eventualities.

ASP published our “Climate Security Report” outlining the threats that climate change poses to national security. One chapter focused on the threats climate change poses to Homeland Security. Some areas that we find DHS should be preparing for include: the Coast Guard must acquire new equipment and infrastructure to protect American interests in an ice-free Arctic; the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) must prepare for increases in the severity and frequency of extreme weather events; the Customs and Border Patrol must prepare for increasingly hot and dry conditions along our Southern border with Mexico, as well as for the possibility of increased flow of refugees from environmentally stressed regions; and, finally, DHS must prepare for the energy security threats to our infrastructure posed by our outdated, unreliable grid and the large amount of energy infrastructure laying near – or even below – sea level along the Gulf Coast.

It is entirely appropriate for DHS to take these threats into account when planning for future. In fact, if they were not taking scientific predictions about the future operating environment into account, that would warrant serious Congressional oversight.

ASP is pleased that the Committee is examining this issue, and looks forward to hearing testimony from the witnesses. Watch the hearing live.