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The Biden Administration & Climate Security: Week One

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What a week for climate security! In his inaugural address on Wednesday, President Joe Biden said, “The cry for survival comes from the planet itself,” acknowledged the “climate is in crisis,” and promised “we will be judged…by how we resolve these cascading crises of our era.” Not long after he was sworn in, President Biden signed an Executive Order to rejoin the Paris Agreement–recommendation 1.13 in our Climate Security Plan for America (CSPA). On Thursday morning, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate John Kerry hit the ground running in a meeting with world leaders, promising “humility and ambition” in tackling the climate crisis.   

This week, the Senate also held hearings on key national security and cabinet nominees–many of whom recognized climate risks in their opening remarks. Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines called climate change a “critical transnational threat,” while Secretary of State-Designate Antony Blinken and Secretary of the Treasury-Designate Janet Yellen both termed the threat “existential.” Homeland Security Secretary-Designate Alejandro Mayorkas noted his agency’s role in tackling  “longer-term threats like climate change”, stating that being “prepared for and resilient to natural disasters” requires work with state, local, tribal and territorial governments. Selecting cabinet officials who will put climate change front and center in national security discussions is exactly what we called for in the CSPA first pillar: Demonstrate Leadership

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Sherri Goodman on the Climatization of Security for the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies

By Mackenzie Allen

In early December 2020, Sherri Goodman spoke with Bangladeshi retired Major General Munir Muniruzzaman about climate security in South East Asia and the United States. Goodman discussed mainstreaming climate change in foreign policy and national security decision-making as part of the Bangladesh Institute of Peace and Security Studies (BIPSS) virtual ‘Strategic Conversation’ discussion program. 

Sherri Goodman currently serves on the Advisory Board of the Council on Strategic Risks and is a Senior Strategist for its Center for Climate and Security. General Muniruzzaman is the President of the BIPSS and Chairman of the Global Military Advisory Council on Climate Change. 

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A Climate Security Plan for America Part 1: Demonstrate Leadership

By John Conger

Part 1 of 4 in the Climate Security Plan for America Blog Series

In late 2019, the Center for Climate and Security-led Climate Security Advisory Group, a group of senior U.S. national security and military experts, including eight retired four-star generals and admirals, published the A Climate Security Plan for America.  These leaders outlined a comprehensive plan to elevate climate change as a security priority and offered recommendations in four broad categories.  This blog discusses the first, Demonstrating Leadership.

As we stated in the report, we believed that in order to successfully counter climate security challenges, it must be an articulated priority of the U.S. President.  Check.  President-elect Biden has repeated often that he seeks to make climate change “a core national security priority.”  He named former Secretary Kerry as his “climate envoy” with a seat on the National Security Council.  For his own part, Secretary Kerry’s initial comments on his new role have focused on the security threat posed by climate change. 

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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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