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BRIEFER: Climate Change in the U.S. National Security Strategy: History and Recommendations

By Holly Kaufman and Sherri Goodman

2021 marks renewed and heightened U.S. government attention to climate and environmental security.  Reducing the threat of climate change is integrated into nearly every aspect of the Biden Administration’s agenda, into all cabinet and other senior positions, including those that deal with national security and foreign policy, and is the focus of three Executive Orders (EOs) that President Biden issued starting on day one of his presidency. The White House also published an Interim National Security Strategic Guidance” which states that the United States and the world have to act aggressively, now, to avert the most dire climate change consequences “for the health of our people, our economy, our security, and our planet.”

The President’s “Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad” EO starts with a directive to put the climate crisis “at the center of U.S. foreign policy and national security.” It directs the Secretary of Defense, the Director of National Intelligence and others to analyze the security implications of climate change (i.e., the “Climate Risk Analysis”) and incorporate them into modeling, simulation, war-gaming and other analyses. This EO also calls for the first National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) focused on climate change – one of a number of measures to integrate climate change considerations into all aspects of domestic and international security planning. This is both unprecedented and critical. NIEs are the most authoritative analyses by the U.S. intelligence community. They provide policymakers with detailed data, information, and evidence-based analysis, without regard to whether the analytic judgments conform to current U.S. policy. Though a number of previous intelligence documents have addressed climate change, including a landmark 2016 National Intelligence Council memorandum, an NIE will go further in detailing the impact of climate change on America’s security. 

Read the full briefer here.

Climate Change in U.S. National Security Strategies under Obama, Trump and Biden

By Dr. Marc Kodack

As the Biden administration’s national security team ramps up efforts to incorporate climate change and its effects into their agencies and policies, work will begin on crafting a new National Security Strategy (NSS). To guide national security decision-making while the full strategy is drafted, President Biden has released interim national security strategic guidance (here). With the availability of this guidance we can compare and contrast how President Biden plans to address climate change and national security with how these issues were tackled in Obama and Trump National Security Strategies published in 2015 and 2017, respectively. In short, the Obama and Biden strategic guidance is strong on climate security (with Biden’s being especially robust), while the Trump NSS was almost entirely silent on the subject. Below is a detailed review.

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A Bipartisan Letter from Congress on Climate Change and National Security

U.s._capitolLed by Representatives Elise Stefanik (R-NY) and Jim Langevin (D-RI), a bipartisan group of 106 lawmakers released an extraordinary letter last week urging the President of the United States to reconsider omission of climate change as a security threat in its National Security Strategy, citing the words of sitting Secretary of Defense James Mattis to underline the issue’s importance. (more…)

Reaction: The New National Security Strategy and Climate Change

SouthPorticoThe Administration today released its first National Security Strategy. Click here for the official summary, and here for the full text. Notably, climate change is not listed as a national security risk in the document, though there are a few elements that relate to the subject. Below is the Center for Climate and Security’s out-of-the-gate reaction: (more…)

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