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BRIEFER – Taking Stock: Integrating Climate Change into U.S. National Security Practices in 2022

By Erin Sikorsky and Brigitte Hugh

In late 2021, the Biden Administration released a suite of national security and foreign policy documents[1] that according to the administration, would “serve as a foundation for [its] critical work on climate and security moving forward.”[2] This briefer synthesizes four key takeaways of these reports: 1) Climate change is forcing the U.S. national security community to reexamine its assumptions about how the world works; 2) Climate security is a current problem and a future problem; 3) Climate security risks are wide-ranging and not confined to particular geographies or sectors; 4) Climate security cannot be separated from other major security concerns—in fact, it shapes and exacerbates those concerns.

If 2021 was about analyzing the problem and making the case that climate change is a national security concern, then 2022 should be about making concrete changes to how US agencies do business so they are equipped to address climate security challenges going forward. To that end, we recommend that the U.S. government pursue five priorities: 1) Mainstream climate security in regional strategies; 2) Link climate adaptation programs with conflict prevention; 3) Maximize whole-of-government approaches to linking climate science and national security; 4) Increase climate security support for allies and partners; 5) Leverage strategic foresight tools to prepare for climate security risks – including worst case scenarios.

Read the full briefer here.


[1] These documents included: (1) National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on Climate Change from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI); (2) Department of Defense (DoD) Climate Risk Analysis (DCRA); (3) Strategic Framework to Address Climate Change for the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) ; (4) Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration, the first such report released by the United States Government; (5) The Department of Defense Climate Adaptation Plan.

[2] “Fact Sheet: Prioritizing Climate in Foreign Policy and National Security,” The White House, October 21, 2021.

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