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Weekly Wisdom: DHS On Preparing For Climate Risks and Building Resiliency

Close_up_detail_of_the_Homeland_Security_FlagThe U.S. Department of Homeland Security, or DHS, is leading efforts to build resilience to the risks of climate change in the United States. According to Caitlin Durkovich, assistant secretary for infrastructure protection at the department:

Increasingly, we’ve moved not only from a security focus to a resiliency focus.

This may be news to some who are used to seeing DHS reports on terrorism and other more traditional domestic security issues, but the department’s focus on preparing for climate risks is years in the making (see, for example, all climate-related Homeland Security documents here on our Climate Security Resource Hub).

Most recently, the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR), released by DHS on June 18 of this year, takes a hard look at the security risks of a changing climate. Significantly, climate change appears in the QHSR’s section on “Prevailing Challenges that Pose the Most Strategically Significant Risk.”

Also worth noting is in February of this year, the U.S. Senate Committee on Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs held a hearing titled “Extreme Weather Events: The Costs of Not Being Prepared.” The full video of the hearing is now up on the committee website. The hearing included a thoughtful discussion of climate preparedness, and anyone who is interested in the subject should watch it in its entirety. In this post, we highlight a number of excerpts from the written testimony of panelists from the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) and the Government Accountability Office (GAO).

Before stepping down in August of 2013 as DHS Secretary, Janet Napolitano gave farewell remarks which emphasized the points reiterated by Durkovich last week, noting:

And you will face new challenges that we have begun to address but that need further attention…You also will have to prepare for the increasing likelihood of more weather-related events of a more severe nature as a result of climate change, and continue to build the capacity to respond to potential disasters in far flung regions of the country that could occur at the same time.

In short, climate change is a homeland security risk of the highest order, which should make climate resilience a national priority.


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