Washington, DC, February 24, 2019 – According to a Washington Post article published today, the planned Executive Order establishing a Presidential Committee on Climate Security, or PCCS, has likely been scrapped – at least in its initial form. This is probably due to the extraordinarily negative public response to the idea following an initial Washington Post article on the PCCS published on February 20 (wherein the Center for Climate and Security strongly criticized the proposed federal advisory committee). However, the National Security Council intends to move forward more quietly and less publicly with an internal, ad hoc group of scientists designed to provide an “adversarial” peer review of recent climate change findings by the federal science agencies, including the National Climate Assessment – a process that seeks to undermine scientific findings, as opposed to evaluate their soundness, and then feed that into national security policy. Presumably due to withering criticism from the security community in the wake of the initial report, recent intelligence agency assessments are exempt from scrutiny under this new working group (Department of Defense reports may be as well, though the Washington Post article does not make that clear).
Given that both the intelligence and defense communities rely on the sound and rigorously peer-reviewed climate change findings of the federal science agencies in order to do their jobs, the continuation of the committee under this new guise continues to present a real risk sound national security judgment. In that context, Rear Admiral David Titley, USN (Ret), Advisory Board member with the Center for Climate and Security, former Oceanographer of the Navy, and former Deputy Undersecretary of Commerce for Operations at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), told the Washington Post today:
“I never thought I would live to see the day in the United States where our own White House is attacking the very science agencies that can help the president understand and manage the climate risks to security of today and tomorrow,” said Titley, who sits on the advisory board of the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan group focused on climate-related risks. “Such attacks are un-American.”
In a note to the Center for Climate and Security, Admiral Titley also stated:
Our defense and intelligence agencies are full of fact-driven, science-driven patriots. Our defense and intelligence analysts critically rely on U.S. government scientists to understand the risks our nation faces. Truthful assessments of the risks stemming from a changing climate are as fundamental as clear-eyed assessments of any other security risk. Bottom line: If our science agencies are under assault, our national security is at risk.
Bullying the civilian science agencies will not magically stop climate change. Climate change is a risk to our security that gets worse with time if not understood and managed. Our civilian science agencies need to be supported and not assaulted in their efforts to serve our country.
In response to the news, John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security, stated:
I’m glad to hear our intelligence personnel will still be allowed to provide their unaltered judgment on the threats posed by climate change, but it would be deeply troubling if our nation’s scientists aren’t allowed to provide theirs.
Former Secretary of Defense James Mattis said ‘climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response.’ To attack the government’s scientists and their judgment only serves to weaken that whole-of-government response, to mask the risks to our military forces and infrastructure, and increase their vulnerability.
In short, suppressing science compromises our national security.
Contact: John Conger, Director, the Center for Climate and Security; jconger at climateandsecurity dot org