Climate and National Security in the New “Solving the Climate Crisis” Report

On Tuesday 30 June, the U.S. House of Representatives’ Select Committee on the Climate Crisis issued a landmark report on the threats that climate change poses to the United States. Based on thousands of testimonies, inputs and recommendations from all sectors and regions of the country, the report outlines concrete legislative steps that the Committee recommends be taken to confront the challenge. In response, John Conger, the Director of the Center for Climate and Security and former Deputy Comptroller of the U.S. Department of Defense, stated:

“We are pleased to see that the Committee’s report, “Solving the Climate Crisis”, recognizes the significant impacts of climate change on national security and includes several important recommendations in response.  Their recommendations align with those that the Center for Climate and Security has embraced in its Climate Security Plan for America and A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change, and they build on the important bipartisan work of the House and Senate Armed Services Committees.  We urge both the Administration and the Congress to continue prioritizing response to address this important national security threat.”

The Center for Climate and Security has long highlighted the danger climate change poses to U.S. national security, and advanced specific recommendations that the U.S. government can develop and implement to plan for and prevent the worst of these. The Center for Climate and Security is therefore privileged to see its own research and work thoroughly integrated into the special report’s chapter on confronting climate risks to national security. Here is an except from the start of the chapter:

In February 2020, a panel of national security, military, and intelligence experts from the Center for Climate and Security released a comprehensive report warning of high-to-catastrophic threats to security environments, infrastructure, and institutions from unmitigated climate change and its impacts. These experts looked at multiple threats to each region of the world, including social and political instability and risks to U.S. military missions and infrastructure. They 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.” This new report reiterates what many national security experts have been saying for more than a decade: Climate change poses a national security threat to the United States and its interests abroad.

This section identifies specific ways Congress can mitigate these risks to national security while simultaneously acting aggressively to achieve a net-zero economy by 2050.”

  • House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis, “Solving the Climate Crisis: A Congressional Action Plan for a Clean Energy Economy and a Healthy, Resilient, and Just America.” June 2020.

This citation, and others throughout the report, draw upon the Center for Climate and Security’s National Security, Military, and Intelligence Panels publication released earlier this year, “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change.” The cutting-edge research of this Panel, led by the Center for Climate and Security’s Senior Research Fellow Kate Guy, found that, under both near-term and long-term scenarios, climate change will pose critical and disruptive effects on American security interests, infrastructure, and institutions.

The House Select Committee’s report goes on to propose specific ways that our security institutions can build resilience and preparedness to the effects of climate change, drawing on the proposals of our “Climate Security Plan for America,” published by the Center for Climate and Security’s Center for Climate and Security Advisory Group in the autumn of 2019. Many of that report’s recommendations, such as a call for the Department of Defense to update it’s 2014 climate security plan and better work with local communities to develop the resilience of  installations and civilian infrastructure, are included.

The security community knows that the best way to confront a threat is to mitigate it. Overall, the Select Committees’ report outlines the risks that climate change poses to the American way-of-life, jobs, economy, security, and health, while offering catalytic policy options to reverse these trends. Our own recommendations to avoid the catastrophic threats associated with high warming scenarios include reaching net-zero global emissions as soon as possible, pursuing an economy-wide emissions reduction strategy, and taking specific actions to adapt and build resilience, with the aim of avoiding the most disruptive security outcomes that continue climate change poses.

We welcome the findings and solutions proposed by the House Select Committee’s report, and call on the United States to take the national security community’s warnings seriously. It’s time we come together and work to wholly prevent this critical threat, at home and abroad.


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