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Former Homeland Security Secretaries Talk Climate and Security

Chertoff and Napolitano

Former Secretaries of Homeland Security Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano testify before the Senate Homeland Security Committee on September 9, 2019

In case you missed it: In a September 9 hearing on “Homeland Security and Terrorism” before the Senate Homeland Security Committee, two former Secretaries of Homeland Security – Janet Napolitano, who served under President Barack Obama, and Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, highlighted the security risks of climate change. Below are excerpts covering the issue:

Secretary Napolitano: But as we all know, and as the former speakers have alluded, threats against our homeland are not static. They evolve. We in the department must adapt with them. Today, i would like to speak with you about three areas i believe the country must focus on — cybersecurity, mass casualty shootings, and the effects of global warming on climate change…

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What Recent Homeland Security Analysis Says About Climate Risks to Military Communities

DHS Community Resilience Analysis_2018_12By Marc Kodack

As we begin to assess the full extent of the damage and lives lost caused by Hurricane Dorian, it is worth looking at recent assessments of community resilience commissioned by the Department of Homeland Security to help shape how we better prepare in the future. This includes making sure that the military communities that keep our bases operating are resilient to climate and non-climate related disasters. Military installations located across the U.S. have recently been affected by significant climate-influenced disaster events (and non-climate disasters) that presented serious risks to military communities, and have cost billions of dollars in facility and infrastructure repairs, and. These events include earthquakes in July 2019 at Naval Air Weapons Station China Lake, California, that resulted in the installation being in a “mission unsustainable” state for multiple days sustaining an estimated $2.5 to $5 billion in damages; severe flooding on the Missouri River resulting from record melting snow upriver exacerbated by a bomb cyclone in March 2019 which effected a third of Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska, with an estimated $650 million for “operations, maintenance, construction, and simulator costs;” and Hurricane Michael in October 2018 which struck Florida and Tyndall Air Force Base damaging every building on the installation resulting in $4.7 billion in damages (see also John Conger’s article on his eye-opening visit to Tyndall about 6 months after the hurricane hit). (more…)

U.S. National Security Council’s Alice Hill on Addressing Climate Change Risks

SouthPorticoOn Friday, the New Security Beat posted a great blog and podcast featuring comments by Alice Hill, the senior director for resilience policy at the U.S. National Security Council (NSC), which were delivered at the launch event of the G7-commissioned report A New Climate for Peace: Taking Action on Climate and Fragility Risks.” Alice Hill details the process by which the U.S. government, including the Department of Homeland Security, has integrated climate change risks into its plans and programs. She identifies key developments in policy, but also critical gaps in implementation – including gaps in expertise on how to limit the fragility risks of climate change in unstable nations.

A blog on the subject, as well as the full podcast, can be found here.

Climate Change in FEMA’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan

FEMA_16321_-_Photograph_by_Win_Henderson_taken_on_09-16-2005_in_LouisianaIn case you missed it, the U.S. Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) released it’s 2014-2018 Strategic Plan on July 15th. This comes on the heels of the release of the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) by FEMA’s parent department, the Department of Homeland Security (DHS). According to the summary by FEMA, the plan “reflects objectives the Agency will accomplish to provide the best possible support to the American people before, during, and after disasters.” In addition to a strong focus on risk management and preparedness, the strategic plan includes explicit mention of the risks related to climate change and the need to better integrate those risks into the Agency’s plans. (more…)

Quadrennial Homeland Security Review: Climate Change Poses Strategically Significant Risk

Flag_of_the_United_States_Department_of_Homeland_Security.svgThe Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) was released by the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) on June 18, and it takes a hard look at the security risks of a changing climate.

Most significantly, climate change appears in the QHSR’s section on “Prevailing Challenges that Pose the Most Strategically Significant Risk” on page 28.  In that context, “natural hazards…with increasingly variable consequences due in part to drivers such as climate change and interdependent and aging infrastructure” (more…)

Marqusee and Titley: Learning Security Lessons from Hurricane Sandy

Soldiers_assist_residents_displaced_by_Hurricane_Sandy_in_Hoboken,_N.J.There is a lot we can learn from what went right and what went wrong in our preparation and response to Hurricane Sandy. Two former Department of Defense officials, Jeff Marqusee, former executive director of the DOD’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program, and retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State, recently penned an op-ed for the Virginian-Pilot highlighting what we can learn from the military. Their points are specifically in regards to Hurricane Sandy, but the lessons they draw demonstrate how the “military planning community” is and will be a vital actor in preparing and responding to climate change-associated risks of all kinds. (more…)

Iceland’s Message to US: Look To the Arctic

531px-Iceland_Hellisheiði_Geothermal_PlantIn a recent CNN interview by Jason Miks, Ólafur Ragnar Grímsson, the President of Iceland, went into great detail about the changing geopolitical conditions in a melting Arctic and the distinct role of the United States in the region. Iceland, an Arctic nation which recently rebounded from a severe economic shock, can certainly teach us something about balancing domestic and international security priorities (Iceland’s security is also entirely handled by the U.S. military, so its perspective on this issue is quite consistent with that of our armed forces in the region). (more…)