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CIA Reorients its Climate Change Analysis

E&E reporter Annie Snider wrote this week on recent changes in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s climate change analysis infrastructure (the story was also picked up by the New York Times). The headline of the story emphasizes the closure of the CIA’s Center on Climate Change and National Security, but sources for the story seemed to suggest that this most likely represents a reorientation in where the CIA houses its climate analysis, and in what context, rather than a scaling back. As reported by Snider:

CIA spokesman Todd Ebitz confirmed the change.

“The CIA for several years has studied the national security implications of climate change,” Ebitz said in a statement to Greenwire. “This work is now performed by a dedicated team in an office that looks at a variety of economic and energy security issues affecting the United States.”

The article also highlights sources who claim that the work previously done by the CIA’s Center on Climate Change and National Security continues, but may now be embedded in a number of “regional” institutions within the CIA, suggesting that this shift may mark an evolution towards integrating climate analysis into broader regional intelligence assessments. Snider reports:

Sources say, however, that the closure of the center has had little impact on the agency’s climate analysis.

“Frankly, I haven’t noticed any change in the work,” a second former defense official said.

In fact, that former official said, the center may have been closed simply because the work fit better elsewhere in the agency.

“You need to have the expertise also embedded in the regional bureaus, divisions, departments of the agency,” the former official said. “That’s often how the strategic thinking and analysis is organized — by country and region. If you don’t have [issues such as] climate, energy, health, natural resource issues included in your country and regional geostrategic analysis, then you’re missing part of the picture.”

As the Obama Administration goes through its transition period, and into a second term, and as  both observable climatic changes and projections continue to paint a worrying picture, the U.S. government’s means of addressing the risks of climate change will likely evolve to match this changing security landscape. Watch this space for more over the coming months.

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