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The U.S. Congress Overrode Trump Veto on FY21 NDAA: Here are the Climate Security Highlights in the Bill

By John Conger

On January 1, the U.S. Senate voted to override Mr. Trump’s veto of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) with an 81-13 vote.  A few days earlier, the House voted 322-87 to override the veto.  It is worth noting that the Statement of Administration Policy, which lists Mr. Trump’s objections to the bill, did not express opposition to any of its climate provisions.

This bill continues the trend we’ve seen in recent years of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees passing pragmatic climate security legislation without making it a political issue.  In this bill, for example, Congress directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a strategy to follow up on its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, essentially asking for a plan to climate proof the DoD.  Given the signals the incoming Biden Administration has sent, there is every reason to expect it to develop an ambitious plan in response.  It also continues the trend of expanding resilience authorities by granting broad authority to fund projects that improve the climate resilience of DoD installations – even when located on private land.  (For those readers unfamiliar with the nuances of DoD funding, this is a big deal… and it’s important because climate change doesn’t recognize fence lines and sometimes the actions you need to take are outside the base.)

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The Council on Strategic Risks Condemns Violence Against U.S. Democratic Institutions

This week, the American democratic system withstood a direct and violent attempt to prevent it from working. Despite this despicable attempt, the U.S. Congress proceeded to certify the results of the 2020 presidential election. This Constitutional process, which started in the afternoon of January 6th but could not be completed until the early morning hours of January 7th, affirmed the votes cast and the electoral certification processes completed by every state in the nation.

The Council on Strategic Risks condemns this assault on the U.S. Capitol, Congress, and on our democratic institutions, and the political forces and actors who instigated it.

Americans have strongly-held, if often divergent, views. Nonviolent public expression of those sentiments and actions to drive change are fundamental elements of the nation’s democratic processes. However, the forced takeover of government facilities, the threats to the safety of elected officials and law enforcement personnel, the attempt to prevent a legitimate election certification process from occurring, and the violence that resulted in five deaths, are not.

Unfortunately, the strains and trends that led to these events were foreseeable and predicted. The Council on Strategic Risks has long expressed concern that the issues the United States has been facing could spur violence and the erosion of democratic governance.

More broadly, history is replete with lessons from situations around the world in which significant changes, strains, and destabilizing forces mounted to the point of overtaking the systems meant to reinforce democratic governance against rising violence, ethno-nationalism, and conflict.

Economic devastation, environmental degradation, technological evolution, rising oppression, the impacts of climate change, and other sweeping trends can combine to create conditions that pave the way for great disruption and change. This has been true in the last century and continues today, where anti-democratic forces have exploited changing conditions to the detriment of citizens worldwide. A major catalyst—such as a life-changing pandemic—can be a significant factor in a system failure, and that is even more likely when political leaders are unwilling or unable to prevent such failure.

Indeed, systemic risks to security never stand alone. They coincide, converge, are fueled by, and fuel, social and political changes and disruption, and at times, violence and conflict. This week’s violent assault on the U.S. Capitol and Congress was clearly fueled by President Trump and other political actors, and by the spreading of blatant falsehoods concerning the November elections through social media and other platforms. However, there is no single cause behind the threat to democracy that the United States has recently witnessed, nor are there singular solutions. But the launching point for advancing solutions is that America’s strong democratic institutions have stood up and prevailed in the face of threats we have not seen in modern times.

We hope January 6th marked the worst of the violence we will see in the United States, and the worst of threats to the U.S. democratic system.

We know there is a long road ahead to find solutions to the deeply-rooted challenges that have been growing in the United States and around the world for many years. The mission of the Council on Strategic Risks is to anticipate, analyze and address core systemic risks to security in the 21st century. We will continue to play a role in the community building that will be necessary to meet this mission, and hopefully in our work will contribute to acts and policies that strengthen our democracy.

The Center for Climate and Security is an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks

Climate Security in the 2021 U.S. National Defense Authorization Act

Rain_on_Capitol_HillBy John Conger

Both the U.S. House and Senate recently passed their versions of the Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Act, but it’s quite possible there will be a delay before a conference bill is completed.  Rather than wait for the final version, this blog will review the climate change and resilience provisions in each version.

Each of these bills is built upon a legislative foundation that’s been developed over the last three years, that involved key steps such as a declaration that climate change poses a direct threat to the national security of the United States, a requirement that the Department of Defense (DoD) prioritize its vulnerabilities and send to Congress a list of its most vulnerable installations, expansion of existing authorities to incorporate climate considerations, improvements to building codes, and a requirement for DoD to conduct resilience planning at each of its installations (plans that will be for identifying next steps for shoring up the unique vulnerabilities at each location). A summary of these provisions can be found here. (more…)

Event: Center for Climate and Security Director to Speak to Congress Today on Climate Change Threats

Conger_Testimony_Feb 2020

John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security, testifies before the U.S. Senate Special Committee on the Climate Crisis

UPDATE (7/15/2020): A recorded video of the event can now be found here.

At 3pm EST today, the Center for Climate and Security’s Director, the Hon. John Conger, will speak to the House Democratic Caucus National Security Task Force about climate change threats to security, in the wake of a new report from the House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Mr. Conger’s comments will build from two major publications from the Center for Climate and Security that influenced the select committee’s work. The first, titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change,” highlights the potentially severe-to-catastrophic security threats of climate change even at plausible lower emissions scenarios, and the second, titled “A Climate Security Plan for America: A Presidential Plan for Combating the Security Risks of Climate Change,” proposes a comprehensive federal plan for addressing climate security threats, in terms of both prevention/ mitigation and preparation/ adaptation. Click here for the livestream, once the event begins.

 

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