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June 4, 2007
Volume 85, Number 23
p. 8


Climate Change And National Security

Bill tells intelligence chief to assess likely risks posed by a changing environment

Jeff Johnson

Legislation calling for an assessment of the potential impact of climate change on national security cleared the Senate Intelligence Committee as Congress left for its Memorial Day recess. Similar legislation passed the House a few weeks earlier.

The national security impact of more severe hurricanes is among the threats that Congress is asking intelligence agencies to assess.

The provision requires the national intelligence director, who heads the nation's intelligence agencies, to prepare an estimate of the geopolitical effects of global climate change for Congress within 270 days of the law's enactment. The assessment is to examine the impact of climate change on national security as well as the political, social, agricultural, and economic risks it is likely to pose 30 years into the future.

The examination, according to the bill, should particularly focus on countries and regions with significant risk of "large-scale humanitarian suffering with cross-border implications." The bill calls on U.S. intelligence agencies to consult with the scientific community when preparing their report, which is to be made public, although portions may be classified, according to the legislation.

Sen. Chuck Hagel (R-Neb.) is a primary supporter of the climate-change provision, which was added in committee to a larger bill, the 2008 Intelligence Authorization Bill.

"The way forward is to responsibly address the issue of climate change with a national strategy that incorporates economic, environmental, and energy priorities," Hagel says. "These priorities are also an integral part of U.S. national security. It is important that we assess the potential geopolitical effects of global climate change and the implications for national security. This estimate will provide information we need to continue to help make our country secure in the years to come."

Climate change and national security issues are increasingly being merged as fears grow over the possible impact of a changing environment and the scientific community's warnings of the potential risk from sea-level rise, agricultural shifts, drought, and natural disasters, such as hurricanes. Most recently, a report by a panel of 11 retired high-ranking admirals and generals warned that threats to national security from climate change are large and must be considered an integral part of U.S. security and defense planning (C&EN, April 23, page 8).

The White House does not support the provision.

Chemical & Engineering News
ISSN 0009-2347
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