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.

Event: Center for Climate and Security Director to Speak to U.S. Congress Today on Climate Change Threats

UPDATE (7/15/2020): A recorded video of the event can now be found here.

At 3pm EST today, the Center for Climate and Security’s Director, the Hon. John Conger, will speak to the U.S. House Democratic Caucus National Security Task Force about climate change threats to security, in the wake of a new report from the U.S. House Select Committee on the Climate Crisis. Mr. Conger’s comments will build from two major publications from the Center for Climate and Security that influenced the select committee’s work. The first, titled “A Security Threat Assessment of Global Climate Change,” highlights the potentially severe-to-catastrophic security threats of climate change even at plausible lower emissions scenarios, and the second, titled “A Climate Security Plan for America: A Presidential Plan for Combating the Security Risks of Climate Change,” proposes a comprehensive federal plan for addressing climate security threats, in terms of both prevention/ mitigation and preparation/ adaptation. Click here for the livestream, once the event begins.

Former U.S. Secretary of Defense Mattis: Don’t Get Caught “Flat-Footed” by Climate Change

In a September 5th interview with Andrea Mitchell, former U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis spoke about the importance of addressing the security threat of climate change, much as he did while he was Secretary of Defense from 2017-2019. In particular, he addressed skeptical audiences, stating: “why wouldn’t we take out an insurance policy and do prudent steps to make certain the generation that’s coming up is not going to be caught flat-footed by this?” Here’s the clip: