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Climate Change – is it a National Security Threat?

February 22, 2019 | Expert Insights

Despite existing reports from the US government that proves Climate Change is a national security threat, President Trump is establishing a special panel to question it anew. This panel would examine and establish a scientific consensus to see if carbon dioxide pollution is dangerous for the planet.


Climate change poses a fundamental threat to places, species and people’s livelihoods. Sea levels are rising, and oceans are becoming warmer. Longer, more intense droughts threaten crops, wildlife and freshwater supplies. From polar bears in the Arctic to marine turtles off the coast of Africa, our planet’s diversity of life is at risk from the changing climate.

Multiple studies published in peer-reviewed scientific journals show that 97 per cent or more of actively publishing climate scientists agree that climate-warming trends over the past century are incredibly likely to be caused due to human activities.

The Paris Agreement is an agreement within the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) dealing with greenhouse gas emissions mitigation, adaptation and finance - starting in the year 2020. The Agreement aims to respond to the global climate change threat by keeping a global temperature rise this century well below 2 degrees Celsius above pre-industrial levels. The US was one among the three nations to have withdrawn from the Paris accord as the president claimed that the Agreement was a bad deal for America.


The White House is planning to assess whether the impact of climate change could be a national security threat to the country. The Washington Post reported that White House staff is preparing an executive order for President Donald Trump’s signature, which would establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Security. This report is based on the National Security Council (NSC) discussion paper that was obtained. 

The post also reported that William Happer, a National Security Council official, is proposed to be the head of the Presidential Committee on Climate Security. A vocal denier of climate change, Happer had previously stated that carbon emissions are a major contributor to greenhouse gas and it should be viewed as an asset. In the past, he has said: "The demonization of carbon dioxide is just like the demonization of the poor Jews under Hitler." He has also said that "Carbon dioxide is actually a benefit to the world, and so were the Jews."

According to the discussion paper, the special panel to be created will have a 12 member federal advisory committee that will “advise the President on scientific understanding of today’s climate, how the climate might change in the future under natural and human influences, and how a changing climate could affect the security of the United States.”

The NSC report highlights that the primary purpose of this panel is that it will be challenging the points made in the various climate studies, including those released by the U.S. government under Trump. However, a spokesman for the NSC in light of the controversial panel declined to comment on the record.

The existing several federal government reports that indicate climate change is worsening and has already threatened public health and the economy in the US, are not valid enough. In 2014, when Barack Obama was president, the Pentagon said that climate change posed “immediate risks” to national security. They also laid out specific plans for boosting resilience and improve readiness as sea levels are rising, disasters are intensifying, and draughts are causing instability in the world.

According to Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton , “the link between climate science and national security has been closely studied for over a decade at the highest levels of the U.S. government — by scientists, the Defence Department and intelligence agencies — and all those studies have made a strong case that various aspects of climate change have an effect on national security.”

Democratic Representative Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, called the creation of the panel part of Trump's "rejection of reality" and warned that it could disrupt crucial national security planning around the world.


Our assessment is that the White House’s decision to set up this panel could receive serious criticisms from the rest of the world. Though President Trump has previously called climate change a hoax, we encourage him to view the bigger picture. It is a moral responsibility of the US, being one of the largest economies with significant carbon footprints, to take the lead in curbing carbon emissions. Despite disapprovals for the efforts to establish the panel, we believe  that through scientific conclusions, the risks of climate change can be empirically proved.


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