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BRIEFER: Climate Change in the U.S. National Security Strategy: History and Recommendations

By Holly Kaufman and Sherri Goodman

2021 marks renewed and heightened U.S. government attention to climate and environmental security.  Reducing the threat of climate change is integrated into nearly every aspect of the Biden Administration’s agenda, into all cabinet and other senior positions, including those that deal with national security and foreign policy, and is the focus of three Executive Orders (EOs) that President Biden issued starting on day one of his presidency. The White House also published an Interim National Security Strategic Guidance” which states that the United States and the world have to act aggressively, now, to avert the most dire climate change consequences “for the health of our people, our economy, our security, and our planet.”

The President’s “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” EO starts with a directive to put the climate crisis “at the center of U.S. foreign policy and national security.” It directs the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence and others to analyze the security implications of climate change (i.e., the “Climate Risk Analysis”) and incorporate them into modeling, simulation, war-gaming and other analyses. This EO also calls for the first National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) focused on climate change – one of a number of measures to integrate climate change considerations into all aspects of domestic and international security planning. This is both unprecedented and critical. NIEs are the most authoritative analyses by the U.S. intelligence community. They provide policymakers with detailed data, information, and evidence-based analysis, without regard to whether the analytic judgments conform to current U.S. policy. Though a number of previous intelligence documents have addressed climate change, including a landmark 2016 National Intelligence Council memorandum, an NIE will go further in detailing the impact of climate change on America’s security. 

Read the full briefer here.

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