U.S. intelligence agencies: Climate change threatens national security

one of the elements of national power (geopoliltical, military, economic, or social cohesion) because it indirectly influences the U.S. homeland, indirectly influences the United States through a major military ally or a major economic partner, or because “the global impact is so large, that [it] indirectly consumes U.S. resources,” according an NIC briefing document quoted by the newsletter InsideDefense.com (sub. req.) which first reported on the assessment. “The additional stress on resources and infrastructure will exacerbate internal state pressures, and generate interstate friction through competition for resources or disagreement over responses and responsibility for migration.”

The assessment, commissioned by NIC last year at the request of the House and Senate intelligence panels, seems to be part of a growing recognition among military officials that climate change must be reckoned with. A 2007 report by the Center for Naval Analysis called for a comprehensive look at the issue. The 2008 National Defense Authorization Act mandates the Pentagon to “examine the capabilities of the U.S. military to respond to consequences of climate change,” particularly preparedness for national disasters due to extreme weather. According to InsideDefense.com, U.S. defense secretary Robert Gates has approved a yet-unreleased National Defense Strategy that includes planning for environmental and climate problems. Richard Engle, deputy national intelligence officer for science and technology in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence, spoke of the classified report in a recent speech. “We wanted to get down to something that might be actionable for the policy community. So we had to be very specific,” he said. The assessment was originally supposed to be public, but has been classified as confidential out of fears that it could evoke hostility from red-flagged governments, according to sources close to the process.

Thomas Fingar, chairman of the NIC, address some portions of the 58-page report, “National Security Implications of Global Climate Change Through 2030,” at Wednesday’s hearing. The Wall Street Journal’s Siobhan Gorman reports that Fingar said environmental degradation is likely to exacerbate mounting problems in developing countries such as poverty, social tensions and weak governments. “Logic suggests the conditions exacerbated (by climate change) would increase the pool of potential recruits for terrorism,” Fingar added. The key findings represent the consensus view of all sixteen U.S. intelligence agencies. Along with CIESIN, other sources whose data contributed to the assessment include the U.S. Climate Change Program; Center for Naval Analysis; the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; the Rand Corp.; and Arizona State University. “There is clearly great interest among policy makers in knowing whether climate change will make crises such as the conflict in Darfur more prevalent, and whether other violent scenarios might be likely to unfold,” said Levy. “The science of climate impacts does not yet give us a definitive answer to this question, but at least now we’re looking at it seriously.”

The CIESIN documents will available starting Monday, 30 June.