White House warns 'no country will be spared' from national security threats related to climate change

White House warns 'no country will be spared' from national security threats related to climate change
·3 min read
Five soldiers stand shoulder to shoulder in the middle of a road, facing a hazy sunset over mountains in the distance.
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  • The White House released a memo about the national security threats posed by climate change.

  • Elements of the climate crisis "have reached a point where we cannot reverse" them, it says.

  • Disputes over natural resources and how countries respond to the crisis are listed as challenges.

In a Thursday memo on a new 37-page report, the Biden administration sounded a dire warning over the knock-on effects of climate change, which "will increasingly exacerbate a number of risks to US national security interests," according to agency assessments.

What's outlined in the report is a dire assessment of how a warming planet and increasingly severe weather events can directly or indirectly worsen tensions between nations, as well as spur unprecedented mass migration from regions rendered uninhabitable by climate effects such as severe heat or rising oceans.

The administration's analysis also comes on the heels of President Joe Biden's infrastructure bill facing serious jeopardy to its climate change provisions as Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona continue to hold out on many of the major spending items that would address the climate crisis.

The report includes analyses from the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI), and a section dedicated to how the climate crisis will impact migration across borders.

"We are already experiencing the devastating impacts that climate has wreaked on almost every aspect of our lives, from food and water insecurity to infrastructure and public health, this crisis is exacerbating inequalities that intersect with gender, race, ethnicity, and economic security," the memo says. "We have reached a point where we cannot reverse some of the changes to the climate system."

The ODNI section includes a summary of the nation's first ever "National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change," described by the administration as "the most authoritative assessment from the Intelligence Community (IC) and represents the consensus view of all 18 IC elements." Those elements include the FBI, the State Department, Space Force Intelligence, as well as the intelligence arms of each branch of the military.

In their assessment, the intelligence community found "no country will be spared from the challenges directly related to climate change."

The ODNI assessment describes three broad categories of threats posed by the climate crisis:

  • A rise in geopolitical tensions "as countries argue over who should be doing more, and how quickly, and compete in the ensuing energy transition" of a warming planet.

  • "Cross-border geopolitical flashpoints" resulting from what the report identifies as "the physical effects of climate change," such as water shortages or uninhabitable levels of heat.

  • A strain on "country-level stability" in specific regions impacted by weather disasters and other effects of climate change.

The migration section of the memo describes how mass relocations of populations can be "an important form of adaptation to the impacts of climate change and in some cases, an essential response to climate threats, to livelihoods and wellbeing; therefore it requires careful management to ensure it is safe, orderly, and humane."

The full report is available on the White House's website.

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