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How to Prioritize Climate Change in U.S. National Security

By Kate Guy

From the outset of Joe Biden’s run for the American presidency, he pledged to look at national security with fresh eyes. Evolving systemic threats like climate change, often relegated to the portfolios of environmental experts and science agencies, were repeatedly mentioned in his plans to remake U.S. defense and foreign policy. “Climate change is the existential threat to humanity,” he often reiterated in the closing days of his campaign.

Now, with the first members of President-elect Biden’s national security team announced, it’s clear that he has taken the first steps to make good on these campaign promises. In the past few years, nominees like Blinken, Sullivan, and Haines have each referenced the need for the U.S. to prioritize addressing climate change in its approach to global challenges. And with the creation of a cabinet-level Presidential Climate Envoy, long-time climate security leader John Kerry will sit in every meeting of the National Security Council with his eye trained on climate threats.

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A Very Strong Signal: 5 Key Takeaways on John Kerry’s Climate Envoy Role and Seat on the National Security Council

By John Conger, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell

On Monday, President-Elect Biden announced several members of his national security team.  They included Anthony Blinken as Secretary of State, Alejandro Mayorkas as Secretary of Homeland Security, Avril Haines as Director of National Intelligence, Linda Thomas-Greenfield as United Nations Ambassador, Jake Sullivan as National Security Advisor, and… former Secretary of State John Kerry as the Special Presidential Envoy for Climate. While each of these announcements have positive implications for how climate change is addressed by the national security enterprise, let’s explore five key implications of this last announcement. 

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Climate Security on Day One

A Climate Security Plan for America_Report CoverBy John Conger

It’s a frequent question that presidential candidates are asked: What would you do on Day One of your Presidency?  Aside from the fact that there’s only so much you can practically get accomplished before you have your staff in place and operations running, a four-year term rapidly becomes a short period of time.  Congress often moves slowly and Federal budget processes are not designed for agility.  For example, the first budget a new president gets to write would be the one they submit 13 months into their term, which only affects spending close to two years into their term.  It can be frustrating, but it also illustrates why it’s absolutely necessary to have an idea of what you want to accomplish from the outset. (more…)

Leading Climate Denier Departs National Security Council – Good News, But Hold the Celebrations

SouthPorticoAccording to reports by E&E News and the New York Times, a leading voice for climate denialism at the White House’s National Security Council, William Happer, has stepped down from his position after a failed effort to suppress climate change analysis from U.S. science, intelligence, defense and other agencies. Speaking to Lisa Friedman at the New York Times, Francesco Femia, Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security and CEO of the Council on Strategic Risks, stated:

“Someone who denies the existence of nuclear weapons or terrorism would never be given a senior position at the National Security Council, and that should have been true on climate change, which is recognized across parties as a security threat to the United States,” said Francesco Femia, co-founder of the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan think tank. “So while this is good news, he never should have been there in the first place.”

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