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Pandemic Highlights Serious Vulnerabilities to Transnational Security Threats In a Climate-Changed World

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Kate Guy, Chair of the Center for Climate and Security’s National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel (NSMIP), presents findings of the “Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change” report on Capitol Hill – Feb 26, 2020

Recent events surrounding the global coronavirus pandemic have forced us to take a hard look at the vulnerability of our modern societies. Institutions and infrastructure, from public health facilities to first responders, are facing new strains from transnational threats that most are under-prepared to deal with. These possibilities were not unprecedented, and in fact the U.S. intelligence community has been warning about the risks of global pandemics for years, including in the last three Worldwide Threat Assessments. In this context, what more can be done to prepare our societies and governments against transnational threats to come, including climate change and its attendant security consequences?

On February 24, the ‘National Security, Military, and Intelligence Panel on Climate Change’ (NSMIP) of the Center for Climate and Security released a new report assessing the security implications of projected future human-induced global warming throughout the 21st Century. Titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change: How Likely Warming Scenarios Indicate a Catastrophic Security Future,” the report uses two scenarios of future warming to analyze the resulting threats posed by climate change to every region of the world, as well as overall global security.

Released in a briefing on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC, the report authors presented their overall findings that climate change could pose ‘High-to-Catastrophic threats to security’ at all levels, and even low warming scenarios harshly impact all regions of the world. The authors of the report also call for “net zero global emissions as soon as possible” in order to avoid that security future, as well as major investments in climate-proofing society for inevitable climatic changes. The briefing was held in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI), and the video can be watched in full here and below.

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Last Year, the U.S. Intelligence Community Warned of a Coronavirus Pandemic: Will We Heed their Climate Warnings?

2019 Worldwide Threat AssessmentBy John Conger, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell

In the absence of a public hearing and release of the U.S. Intelligence Community’s “Worldwide Threat Assessment” this year, it is instructive to look at last year’s assessment to see what the nation’s intelligence professionals were predicting. The following passage was particularly striking:

We assess that the United States and the world will remain vulnerable to the next flu pandemic or largescale outbreak of a contagious disease that could lead to massive rates of death and disability, severely affect the world economy, strain international resources, and increase calls on the United States for support. Although the international community has made tenuous improvements to global health security, these gains may be inadequate to address the challenge of what we anticipate will be more frequent outbreaks of infectious diseases because of rapid unplanned urbanization, prolonged humanitarian crises, human incursion into previously unsettled land, expansion of international travel and trade, and regional climate change.

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RELEASE: Future Climate Change Presents High-to-Catastrophic Security Threat, Warn U.S. National Security, Military and Intelligence Experts in New Assessment

Cover Image_NSMIP_2020_2Washington, DC, February 24, 2020 In a comprehensive report released today by the “National Security, Military and Intelligence Panel (NSMIP)” of the Center for Climate and Security, experts warn of High-to-Catastrophic threats to security from plausible climate change trajectories – the avoidance of which will require “quickly reducing and phasing out global greenhouse gas emissions.” The panel, made up of national security, military and intelligence experts, analyzed the globe through the lens of the U.S. Geographic Combatant Commands, and concluded that “Even at scenarios of low warming, each region of the world will face severe risks to national and global security in the next three decades. Higher levels of warming will pose catastrophic, and likely irreversible, global security risks over the course of the 21st century.”

The report will be officially launched this afternoon at 3:30pm EST in a briefing at the Rayburn House Office Building (Gold Room 2168) featuring distinguished members of the expert panel. The briefing will also be webcast live, and is hosted by the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks (CSR),  in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation (HMJ) and the Environmental and Energy Study Institute (EESI). (more…)

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence and New Studies Warn of Climate Change and Water Security

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Maria Langan-Riekhof, Director of the Strategic Futures Group at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, speaks to the Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities Hearing: “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition,” December 11, 2019

By Marc Kodack

Concerns about the effects of climate change on security – particularly the way that climate change can exacerbate threats to U.S. interests – have driven several recent U.S. House of Representative hearings. Senior intelligence officials have been at the forefront of these warnings. For example, in recent testimony  by Maria Langan-Riekhof of the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (during an extraordinary hearing of the Emerging Threats Subcommittee titled “Climate Change in the Era of Strategic Competition”), she highlighted that water stresses in the Middle East and Central America are increasing, and that these changes will degrade already poor government services, strain communities, and challenge agricultural production. These and other stresses can lead to increased local and regional political, economic, and social instability. (more…)

U.S. Military and Intelligence Community Witnesses Highlight Climate Risks to National Security in December Hearings

Rain_on_Capitol_HillBy Dr. Marc Kodack

Two U.S. Congressional hearings held in December 2019 – one in the House of Representatives and one in the Senate – either included climate change (House) or included a brief question and answer exchange between a Member and a witness on climate change (Senate) during a non-climate change focused hearing. A summary of the House Armed Services’ Subcommittee on Intelligence and Emerging Threats and Capabilities hearing is presented first. The Senate Armed Services Committee hearing exchange follows. (more…)

NPR on Climate and Security Scenarios with Francesco Femia

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An aerial view of Offutt Air Force Base affected by major flood damage, March 17, 2019 (U.S. Air Force photo by TSgt. Rachelle Blake)

In yesterday’s episode of NPR’s On Point, Meghna Chakrabarti interviewed journalist Emily Atkin and Francesco Femia, the Council on Strategic Risks’ CEO and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security, to discuss the implications of climate change for global instability and conflict. The show built upon an article in the New Republic by Emily Atkin, The Blood-Dimmed Tide, exploring a catastrophic 2100 climate scenario. Francesco touched on a number of topics, including climate risks to military installations, the growing bipartisan U.S. national security consensus on climate change and security (including across the intelligence and defense community), as well as the strategic benefits of U.S. investments in climate prevention and preparation (and conversely, the strategic negatives, vis-a-vis its competitors and adversaries, of doing nothing). Listen to the On Point episode here. The segment with Francesco Femia starts at 25:05, but the full show is worth a listen.

U.S. Policy-Makers Must Do More to Protect Intelligence Analysis from Political Suppression

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Rod Schoonover (INR), Peter Kiemel (ODNI) and Jeffrey Ringhausen (ONI) testify on climate and security before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, June 5, 2019

As reported by the Washington Post, the Wall Street Journal and the New York Times, Dr. Rod Schoonover, Senior Analyst at the State Department’s Bureau of Intelligence and Research (INR), former Director of Environment and Natural Resources at the National Intelligence Council, and one of the nation’s foremost experts on the security implications of climate change, has resigned voluntarily in the wake of unprecedented White House suppression of INR’s written intelligence analysis on climate and security, which was intended to be delivered by Dr. Schoonover to the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on June 5, 2019. (more…)