White House Climate Change Priorities: Foreign Policy and National Security

The impacts of global climate change are evident in nearly every region of the world. These impacts disrupt important aspects of society, including public health, food distribution, and water supply. Wildfires are becoming more frequent, and the world is suffering extraordinary levels of drought. Furthermore, the effects of climate change are compounding racial, gender, and economic disparities.

Climate change and its effects on national security and foreign policy have been a focus of the Biden Administration since the very beginning. The Administration has gathered a collection of analyses from national security agencies, based on scientific evidence from the nation’s leading science agencies. Fact Sheet: Prioritizing Climate in Foreign Policy and National Security highlights the strategies needed to build readiness, and to respond to climate change emergencies.

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence recently released the first-ever National Intelligence Estimate on climate change. Climate Change and International Responses Increasing Challenges to US National Security Through 2040 provides an authoritative assessment from the Intelligence Community. This report highlights three broad key judgements:

  • Growth of geopolitical tensions as countries increasingly debate how to accelerate of the reduction of greenhouse gas emissions to meet the Paris Agreement goals;
  • Increased geopolitical flashpoints as the physical effects of climate change increase; and
  • Climate change effects straining stability in developing countries.

The U.S. Government is focusing on migration as weather extremes grow in severity. Climate change continues to threaten livelihoods, well-being, political stability, and economic security worldwide, forcing many to flee in the face of life-threatening risks. Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration marks the first time the U.S. Government is reporting on the link between the two. Climate hazards, when combined with stressors such as violence and economic instability, are likely to contribute to economic, political, and social instability around the world.

The release of Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis addresses instability in national security caused by climate change. “To train, fight, and win in this increasingly complex environment, DoD will consider the effects of climate change at every level of the DoD enterprise.” Climate change poses a growing risk to DoD capabilities, missions, strategies, and equipment. These threats can be mitigated with international cooperation between allies and partners. This report focuses on the DoD’s role in supporting a whole-of-government effort to mitigate and adapt to these unavoidable changes.

As new information becomes available through efforts of the DoD, the Department of Homeland Security continues to incorporate these findings into DHS policies, strategies, and programs. With a duty to safeguard the homeland from today’s climate change related emergencies, DHS has released DHS Strategic Framework for Addressing Climate Change.  The department outlines goals to prepare and adapt to the changing conditions in the U.S., and ways in which it will meet the needs of individual communities.

The destructive impact of climate change will increase the vulnerability of regions worldwide, with implications for core foreign policy and national security interests. “This evolving situation creates operational and logistical challenges we must also overcome to safeguard and secure the homeland.”


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