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Climate Risks in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community

Dan_Coats_official_DNI_portrait

Official portrait of DNI Director Dan Coats, 10 March 2017

For the third time during the current U.S. Administration, climate change was included in the annual 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community released by the Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats. Consistent with threat assessments and memoranda from the National Intelligence Council and CIA during both the GW Bush and Obama Administrations, the assessment raises concerns about the national security implications of a changing climate. This demonstrates a strong bipartisan consensus regarding the security risks of climate change.

Reiterating a point we make each year when the Worldwide Threat Assessment is released, given that climate change acts as a “threat multiplier” – multiplying existing threats in the security environment – one cannot contain the threat to the specific sections described below. For example, climate change is likely to have a significant impact on health security, as included in this year’s assessment, as well as nuclear proliferation, which is covered separately in the threat assessment. It may contribute to the conditions that allow for terrorism, or international organized crime, to thrive. It may also make mass displacements of people, instability, conflict, and atrocities, more likely. Climate change influences the entire geostrategic landscape. In that sense, one could walk through the entire threat assessment report and identify ways in which climate change will intersect with nearly every risk identified, and in most cases, make them worse. (more…)

Intelligence Director on climate change as “underlying meta-driver of unpredictable instability”

Tarbela_Dam_Pakistan_during_the_2010_floods

Tarbela Dam Pakistan during the 2010 floods. Photo by Paul Duncan, U.S. Marine Corps

Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper, recently addressed the 2016 INSA & AFCEA Intelligence & National Security Summit. He spoke specifically to national intelligence during a time of transition between administrations, and how looking out at potential future failures and collapses over the coming decades, climate change will be “an underlying meta-driver of unpredictable instability.”

Clapper’s remarks covered the existing security landscape that will continue through to the next administration, regardless of who becomes Commander In Chief. He calls it “a world of unpredictable instability.” From his remarks: (more…)

Climate Change in the 2015 World Wide Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community

James_R._Clapper_official_portraitOn February 26, 2015, Director of National Intelligence James Clapper presented the World Wide Threat Assessment for the US Intelligence Community Statement for the Record to the Senate Armed Services Committee. A significant portion of the assessment highlighted risks associated with the impact of climate-exacerbated extreme weather events on global food and water security (see below for those excerpts). The assessment also looked at how climate change is a factor in increasing human security risks related to infectious diseases. (more…)

Climate Change and Water in the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community”

Digging_irrigation_channels,_Palmyra,_SyriaIn his “Statement for the Record” regarding the “Worldwide Threat Assessment of the US Intelligence Community,” released yesterday, the Director of National Intelligence James R. Clapper had a lot of ground to cover, ranging from the nuclear threat posed by Iran to the threat posed by cyber-saboteurs. And within that range of global and regional threats, those emanating from, or exacerbated by, a changing climate received prominent attention. (more…)

Director of National Intelligence: Climate Change in the Worldwide Threat Assessment

James_R._Clapper_official_portraitJames R. Clapper, the U.S. Director of National Intelligence (DNI), delivered remarks yesterday to the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence regarding the recently-released “Worldwide Threat Assessment” of the U.S. Intelligence Community. In it, Clapper identifies climate change as a threat to national security under the assessment’s “natural resources” basket. He begins with a description of why the threat assessment includes natural resource issues: (more…)

Notable Climate and Security Publications of 2012

Temperature_globalThe year 2012 was the warmest year on record for the United States. It was also a year of extraordinary natural disasters in both the U.S., and abroad. Hurricane Sandy, for example, was the eleventh billion-dollar weather-related disaster for the U.S. in 2012, accompanied by unprecedented heat waves, droughts and tornadoes.  Tropical storms and flooding in East Asia, unexpected heavy rains and flooding in Somalia, Nigeria, and the Republic of Congo, 19 straight months of punishing drought in northern Brazil, are just a few examples of a very volatile year in terms of extreme weather events globally. The security implications of these, and other similar events, will certainly be a subject of study in the years to come, as will be their connections to climate change. (more…)

The Water Bubble: A 21st Century Built on Dwindling Water Resources

A new global study published last week in Nature has found that “almost one-quarter of the world’s population lives in regions where groundwater is being used up faster than it can be replenished.” Essentially, thousands of years of accumulated water could soon be gone. So while much of the media focused on budget deficits, a large part of the world is facing a water deficit. This will have serious implications for drinking water, energy and food, which in turn could place major stress on regional and international security. As stated in the recent Intelligence Community Assessment on water security released by the U.S. Director of National Intelligence,“during the next 10 years the depletion of groundwater supplies in some agricultural areas—owing to poor management—will pose a risk to both national and global food markets.” (more…)