Biden Restores Climate As A Top National Security Priority

Biden Restores Climate As A Top National Security Priority

The Biden Administration’s 2022 National Security Strategy, released last week, emphasizes the urgent need to reduce emissions to reach Paris Agreement goals, particularly amidst worldwide geopolitical conflict. The report elevates the climate crisis at the center of the nation’s security strategy, as opposed to the Trump years when climate was erased from government strategy documents, and in contrast to previous governmental assessments which tended to describe climate change as a “threat multiplier,” rather than a threat in itself.

WMO: United in Science 2022 | Animation, September 13, 2022.

Euronews: UN Secretary-General says the climate crisis is placing half of humanity in 'the danger zone,' June 14, 2022.

“People all over the world are struggling to cope with the effects of shared challenges that cross borders -- whether it is climate change, food insecurity, communicable diseases, terrorism, energy shortages, or inflation,” the strategy report reads. “These shared challenges are not marginal issues that are secondary to geopolitics. They are the very core of national and international security and must be treated as such.

BBC: Deadly heatwaves '100 times more likely' due to climate change, May 18, 2022

LA Times: How pandemics are linked to climate change, May 21, 2022.

Al Jazeera: What's the cost of Europe's shift back to coal? | Counting the Cost, August 27, 2022.

DW: Time is running out | WMO warns 1.5 degree threshold could be topped by 2026, May 18, 2022.

Why This Matters

In a recent assessment, the US National Intelligence Council stated that climate change will exacerbate existing geopolitical instability, particularly in the world’s poorest countries. Warming temperatures can intensify extreme weather disasters and food insecurity, both of which can catalyze political violence. In northern Kenya, where 4 million people are food insecure, citizens have endured increasing crime, seeing valuable cattle stolen, and their herders killed.

Bertelsmann Foundation: A Global Security Threat | Climate Change, February 28, 2022.

NBC: How Climate Change Is Posing A Mounting Threat To US National Security, October 21, 2021.

DW: This is just how unfair climate change is, May 21, 2021.

Currently, 345 million already face food insecurity as a result of compounding issues like climate change, political conflict, and rising food costs, a recent World Food Programme report states. Simultaneously, climate change-intensified extreme weather events threaten to displace 200 million people within the next 20 years.

WFP: These are the warning signs of a global food shortage, July 11, 2022.

Amanpour and Company (PBS): The Great Climate Migration Has Begun, May 24, 2021.

WW0: Facebook Live conversation on national security, climate migration and the climate crisis, September 9, 2020.

Going Global

Addressing the consequences of climate change will demand additional US financial, humanitarian, and military resources, the strategy emphasizes. Most importantly, though, it will require global cooperation and diplomacy. Interestingly, this National Security Strategy leans into the idea of a global clean energy competition with China, whereas the Obama-era NSS elevated climate change as an area of needed cooperation with China. The change reflects the erosion of US-China relations over the last six years.

The world has entered what the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) has deemed “a new era of risk” for war and other major conflicts. " Nature and peace are so closely linked that damaging one damages the other,” explained SIPRI researcher, Dan Smith. “By the same reasoning, enhancing one enhances the other…Action is possible -- and the time to act is now."

SIPRI: Environment of Peace report launch, May 22, 2022.

One major area of focus is the Arctic. Not only is the region warming four times faster than the rest of the world, it’s also the center of Russia’s harmful oil operations, rendering the region increasingly unstable. Even as much of the world works to break dependence on Russian oil, melting sea ice is working in Putin's favor by opening the Northern Sea Route. The US, though, is not prepared for an Arctic showdown, Maine Senator Angus King warned. “I mean Russia has like 40 icebreakers. We have one,” King told CNN, calling for a more robust US naval presence in the region.

The climate crisis and the energy crisis, then, go hand-in-hand. As Major General Paul D. Eaton writes for WW0’s Front Lines, “renewable energy is security and security is renewable energy.”

TV News: Arctic defense key in protecting Canada, Europe against Russia | NATO Secretary-General Stoltenberg, August 26, 2022.

Sky News: 'On thin ice | Rising tensions in the Arctic,’ July 8, 2022.

WION: Russia eyes Arctic dominance, Canada & US play catch-up, June 22, 2022.

ABC: US, Russia vie for superiority in Arctic Circle, March 14, 2022.

American Security Project: National Security, Climate Resilience & Environmental Protection with Congressman Scott Peters, August 31, 2022.

Harvard Belfer Center: Secretary John Kerry | Climate Change, Intelligence, and Global Security Conference, April 26, 2021.