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CSR’s Rod Schoonover Cited in House Oversight Hearing: Climate Disinformation a Security Issue

On October 28, 2021 the House Committee on Oversight and Reform convened a hearing on the alleged role of the fossil fuel industry in promoting climate disinformation. This was the first time that executives from Exxon Mobil, BP, Chevron, and Royal Dutch Shell testified under oath on the matter. The main oil lobby, the American Petroleum Institute, and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce also testified.

During his allotted time, Illinois Congressman Mike Quigley immediately raised the issue of climate security, saying “I serve on the House Select Committee on Intelligence and we are often briefed on climate change as a threat to our national security.” He cited the importance of recent reports on climate security from the intelligence community, the National Security Council, and the Departments of Defense and Homeland Security.

On the issue of disinformation, Rep Quigley continued “The hearing today has helped document a long-standing and concerted effort to muddy the scientific waters on the threat of climate change.” Adding, “But I think the person who put all that best was Dr. Rod Schoonover. He served for a decade in the U.S. intelligence community as a senior analyst and senior scientist in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the U.S. Department of State and Director of Environment and Natural Resources [at the National Intelligence Council].”He said, and I quote, “If climate change poses a risk to national security, as the Pentagon and intelligence community again reminded us last week, shouldn’t we view climate disinformation through that lens as well?

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Implementing the Biden Administration’s Climate Executive Order – The Defense Climate Risk Analysis

President Biden at the Leaders Summit on Climate – 22 April 2021

By Erin Sikorsky

Today marks an important milestone in the execution of the Biden Administration’s climate security strategy. In accordance with the Executive Orders on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration, the White House, Department of Defense, Department of Homeland Security, and Director of National Intelligence have just released four key reports: The Defense Climate Risk Analysis; an unclassified summary of the National Intelligence Estimate on the Security Implications of Climate Change; Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration; and a Department of Homeland Security Strategic Framework for Addressing Climate Change

Together, these reports paint a sobering picture of the security risks posed by climate change, exploring not only the direct threats posed by climate hazards to human security, critical infrastructure, and military readiness, but also the secondary threats that emerge when climate effects intersect with other factors such as poor governance, existing state fragility, or violent extremism.  

On November 17, 2021, the Center for Climate and Security will hold a virtual seminar discussing these reports and where the Biden Administration goes next. RSVP for this session, Analysis to Action: Advancing Climate Security in the Biden Administration here.

We will also will publish a series of posts examining each report in depth over the next week. Today, we begin with a look at the Defense Climate Risk Analysis.

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New US Intelligence Community Reports Focus on Climate and Ecological Security Risks

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is Haines-and-Harris-1024x682.jpg
Vice President Kamala Harris swears in Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence, Jan, 21, 2021 (Official White House Photo by Lawrence Jackson)

In two new publicly-available, unclassified reports, the US Director of National Intelligence makes clear the critical role climate change and ecological degradation are playing in shaping the US national security landscape, both in the near term and long term. While the US intelligence community has long warned of the threats posed by climate change, the new Global Trends report and the latest Annual Threat Assessment are some of the sharpest, most detailed, and urgent warnings to date.

Global Trends 2040: A More Contested World

The quadrennial Global Trends report assesses the key trends and uncertainties that will form the strategic environment for the United States during the next two decades. This year’s report identifies environment and climate change as a “structural force” that, along with technological change, demographics and human development, and economics, will set the parameters of the future. The report gives more pages over to climate and environment issues than any previous Global Trends, noting, “During the next 20 years, the physical effects from climate change of higher temperatures, sea level rise, and extreme weather events will impact every country. The costs and challenges will disproportionately fall on the developing world, intersecting with environmental degradation to intensify risks to food, water, health, and energy security.”

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The Center for Climate and Security Applauds the Biden Administration’s Executive Actions on Climate Change

The Center for Climate and Security applauds President Biden’s Executive Orders (EO) on climate change released today, including the EO specifically addressing climate threats to national security titled  “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad.”  This EO devotes a significant section (1.3) to climate security, following through on many of the policy proposals made in the President’s campaign plan, and reflecting recommendations the Center for Climate and Security made in its “Climate Security Plan for America.”

As we noted after the election last November, President Biden committed to making climate change a core national security priority. This EO begins to make that commitment a reality, noting that climate considerations are an “essential element” of all U.S. foreign and national security policy – signaling a major and unprecedented elevation of the issue.  It builds on the President’s appointment of former Secretary of State John Kerry to be his Special Presidential Envoy for Climate (a position with a seat on the National Security Council, established in the EO), and the creation of a Senior Director for Climate and Energy at the National Security Council  – actions that together go well beyond the Obama Administration’s actions on climate security.  

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