On September 24, 2019, sixty-four senior military, national security and intelligence leaders of the Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG), an extraordinary group chaired by the Center for Climate and Security in partnership with the Elliott School of International Affairs, released “A Climate Security Plan for America.” The Plan calls on the U.S. President to recognize climate change as a vital national security threat, and issue a National Strategy to fulfill a “responsibility to prepare for and prevent” that threat.
The non-partisan group, which includes eight retired 4-star generals and admirals, thirty senior military officers, a former NASA Administrator, and a past Chair of the National Intelligence Council, among many others, offers the Climate Security Plan for America as an ambitious roadmap for fulfilling this “responsibility to prepare and prevent.” That includes preparing for locked-in threats to security from climate change, and preventing major security disruptions in the future by significantly reducing the scale of the problem. The Plan recommends 4 pillars of action: Demonstrate Leadership; Assess Climate Risks; Support Allies and Partners; Prepare for & Prevent Climate Impacts.
1. Demonstrate Leadership: Make Climate Change a Vital National Security Priority.
Why: Combating vital threats to U.S. national security requires leadership from the top. As the President takes stock of the significant national security implications of climate change, it is critical to establish it as a vital national security and presidential priority, and to clearly direct the leaders of federal departments and agencies to do the same.
How [Top Recommendation]: The President should announce a government-wide Climate Security Plan for America, and implement it through a new National Strategy Directive and White House Office on Climate Security, led by a senior official reporting directly to the President.
2. Assess Climate Risks: Maintain Unprecedented Foresight About Climate Change.
Why: Avoiding a “blind spot” on climate and security requires good intelligence. In order to prepare for the national security risks of a changing climate, the U.S. government must conduct regular, robust and actionable intelligence assessments of those risks.
How [Top Recommendation]: The President should create an interagency Climate Security Crisis Watch Center in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) to drive government-wide assessments of the security risks driven by climate change.
3. Support Allies and Partners: Reinforce U.S. National Security and Compete on the World Stage by Bolstering Climate Resilience Abroad.
Why: Helping our allies and partners deal with climate change helps the U.S. If the U.S. does not play a leadership role in bolstering climate resilience abroad, its adversaries will fill that gap.
How [Top Recommendation]: The President should task the National Security Advisor with creating Regional Climate Security Plans – unified interagency plans that support national security, foreign policy and development strategies in critical regions of the world to bolster climate resilience and clean energy transitions in key countries, prevent climate stress from destabilizing fragile states, expand U.S. alliances and partnerships, and compete with great powers.
4. Prepare for and Prevent Climate Impacts: Build U.S. Resilience to Climate Change Risks and Reduce Their Scale and Scope.
Why: Maintaining U.S. national security requires climate-proofing the homeland. Given that the U.S. both faces unprecedented risks from climate change, and has unprecedented foresight about those risks, the U.S. government has a responsibility to prepare the nation for locked-in changes, and prevent catastrophic risks in the future.
How [Top Recommendation]: The President should launch a major Climate Security Infrastructure Initiative to improve the climate resilience of our critical civilian and military infrastructure, and an economy-wide Climate Security Prevention Policy focused both in the U.S. and globally to reduce greenhouse gas emissions at a scale necessary for avoiding catastrophic security consequences and bolstering economic development.
Quotes from Climate Security Plan for America Signatories
“Climate change is the greatest challenge of the 21st Century. For our future national security, economic well-being, international order, and quality of life, it is essential that the United States step forward and lead. By acting boldly now, following the principles and recommendations of this Climate Security Plan for America, we have the opportunity to transform this challenge into tremendous opportunities for technological advancement, sustainable growth and global cooperation.” – Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, U.S. Navy (Ret), Advisory Board, the Center for Climate and Security; former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment
“Congress has declared climate change to be a direct threat to the national security of the United States; the military has begun to plan. We see the climate security threat with more clarity than ever and now we have a responsibility to prepare for it, and prevent it, across the whole of government. The Climate Security Plan for America is a call for Presidential leadership to prioritize this challenge and take action to protect our national security in the face of the coming storm.” – Hon. John Conger, Director, the Center for Climate and Security; Former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment
“It’s going to take Presidential leadership to tackle climate change on a scale that’s commensurate to the threat. This Climate Security Plan for America, signed by 64 of this country’s military, intelligence and national security leaders, lays out an ambitious but actionable blueprint for that necessary effort. This plan would be a first step in fulfilling our responsibility to prepare for, and prevent, the national security risks of climate change.” – Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, Co-Founders, the Center for Climate and Security; CEOs, the Council on Strategic Risks
“We can combat the climate crisis by acting on this Climate Security Plan for America, and making it the blueprint for climate security actions by the national security agencies of the US Government. This plan will make our nation more secure, and reduce the threat multiplier of climate change.” – Hon. Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist, the Center for Climate and Security; Former Deputy Under Secretary of Defense (Environmental Security)
“When analyzing national security concerns over the next twenty years, those arising from the adverse effects of climate change are comparatively more predictable than other security challenges such as terrorism and acrid geopolitics. This argues for a robust governmental response to a pretty well-defined national security trajectory.” – Rod Schoonover, Adjunct Professor, Georgetown University School of Foreign Service; Former Director of Environment and Natural Resources, National Intelligence Council
Read the Climate Security Plan for America: here (full list of signatories on pp 5-7)
Direct inquiries to: Francesco Femia, ffemia at climateandsecurity dot org, 571-263-5691
Details of the report release event: here