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Former Homeland Security Secretaries Talk Climate and Security

Chertoff and Napolitano

Former Secretaries of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on September 9, 2019

In case you missed it: In a September 9 hearing on “Homeland Security and Terrorism” before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, two former Secretaries of Homeland Security – Janet Napolitano, who served under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, highlighted the security risks of climate change. Below are excerpts covering the issue:

Secretary Napolitano: But as we all know, and as the former speakers have alluded, threats against our homeland are not static. They evolve. We in the department must adapt with them. Today, i would like to speak with you about three areas i believe the country must focus on — cybersecurity, mass casualty shootings, and the effects of global warming on climate change…

Secretary Napolitano: It is also time for Congress and DHS to recognize climate change is a generational threat to the homeland that must be addressed in a meaningful way. The uptick in sick — in extreme weather events on land and offshore clearly impact the missions of FEMA and the U.S. Coast Guard from rescue and reconnaissance to disaster preparation, response, and recovery, our changing climate requires DHS to approach this missions differently. Climate evolution also implicates our border and immigration system, thereby directly affecting — extreme weather is destroying crop fields in central and South America, devastating economies. With lost jobs and lost wages, the movement towards radicalization widens, outdoes — as does the draw of northward aggravation. The downstream effects of climate change are among them. If we, as a nation, failed to address climate change in a holistic and global way, as a threat to the homeland, we will ignore one of the nation’s, and the world’s, greatest security risks.

Secretary Chertoff: If you consider threats to our homeland, we talked a little bit about terrorism. We talked about cyber, also a huge threat. We talked about illegal immigration, and I agree with secretary Napolitano, the movement of folks across the border. We address too often the symptoms of the problems. We need to also address root causes. Whether the issue of the threat is terrorism, cyber, immigration, climate change, we cannot do this by ourselves as a nation. It is — it has got to be a team.


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