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White House Takes Steps to Address the National Security impacts of Climate Change

White House Takes Steps to Address the National Security impacts of Climate Change

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This week, President Obama signed a new Presidential Memorandum directing that the impacts of climate change must be considered in the development of all national security-related doctrine, policies, or plans. National Security Adviser Susan Rice wrote a blog post detailing the plan.

The directive will create a new Federal Climate and National Security Working Group tasked with sharing climate science across government and determining research and policy priorities to address these threats. It also directs agencies to make “Implementation Plans” that take into account the impacts climate change will have on human mobility (including migration and displacement), global water and food security, nutrition, public health, and infrastructure.

It is important that the threat of climate change is addressed in this way, because climate change is not simply an issue that can be addressed on its own. It is an issue that affects all other national security threats. We know that there are many threats to America’s national security, from terrorism to nuclear proliferation, Russia to China, or even economic stagnation.

But the truth is that climate change affects all these other threats as well. Unchecked, even the moderate warming that we’ve seen so far has had significant impacts on water, food, and energy security in certain regions around the world. It has begun to change disease patterns. It is beginning to drive migration. These changes, in turn, could affect state stability and cause collapse of governance in entire regions.

This directive was released in conjunction with a new report from the National Intelligence Council that finds that climate change will pose real security challenges to the United States in the next two decades. Extending current trends, it is not an exaggeration to say that unchecked climate change could make solving the other problems the world faces impossible.

By forcing climate change to be included in all threat assessments, this new directive will try to break through the barriers that government too often falls into – where someone working in regional office doesn’t interact with someone working on a topic-specific priority, and none of them work with the people on the ground. If successful, this initiative has the promise to cut through some of those silos – but of course, much of that implementation will depend on the actions of the next president.

More on ASP’s Climate Security Work

For more on ASP’s work on climate security, please read our Climate Security Report, and see our Climate Security website. We know that the U.S. military is already planning for the effects of climate change, which you can how they’re “Preventing Tomorrow’s Climate Wars” in an article in Scientific American. Finally, see the Global Climate Security Index show that militaries around the world are also planning for the threats of climate change. Contact Andrew Holland for more details.