“No country will be spared from the challenges directly related to climate change,” a senior administration official told reporters in a call previewing the reports.
The four reports – which President Joe Biden called for in executive orders in January and February – not only analyze issues currently being made worse by climate change, they examine future threats facing the United States. The release includes a report on migration, a National Intelligence Estimate, and separate reports from the Defense Department and the Department of Homeland Security. The reports come 10 days before the President is scheduled to attend the international climate conference known as COP 26 in Glasgow, Scotland.
“These analyses will serve as a foundation for critical work on climate and security moving forward,” a senior administration official told reporters during a call Wednesday evening, on the condition of not being named. “It’s important to flag that these analyses reinforce the President’s commitment to the United States making evidence-based decisions, guided by the best available science and data.”
Among the reports, which were released later Thursday morning, the administration details how climate change is driving migration, the first time the US government is officially recognizing the link between climate change and migration.
It “identifies migration as an important form of adaptation to the impact of climate change, and in some cases an essential response to climate threat,” the official explained.
That threat will cause people to move to the “nearest stable democracies that adhere to international asylum conventions and are strong economies,” they added.
In many cases, that will mean US allies or partner countries that have already experienced climate-related influxes of migration, and are vulnerable to “greater insecurity,” such as Greece, Turkey, the United Kingdom and France.
The official noted that the administration was “very careful not to frame migration as a purely negative coping mechanism.”
“Our goals remain to ensure that migration for any reason is done in a safe, orderly and humane pathway,” the official said.
Asked about migration from Central America in particular – which has been straining US resources as waves of migrants show up at the country’s southern border – the official said they would “let the report speak for itself.”
“The migration report does talk about different countries and regions that are affected by climate migration and includes countries within the Western Hemisphere, and what we can do along those lines as well,” they said, declining to get into specifics.
The White House will also release a National Intelligence Estimate – an “authoritative assessment” that represents a consensus view of all 18 intelligence agencies – that provides a “geopolitical analysis of the implications and risks to the United States” posed by climate change.
“Climate change will increasingly exacerbate a number of risks to US national security interests from both physical impacts that could cascade into security challenges, to help countries respond to the climate challenge,” the senior official said. The broad categories of risk will include increased geopolitical tension, cross-border geopolitical flashpoints as countries “take steps to secure their interests,” and the risk that climate change will destabilize countries internally.
“The Intelligence Committee judges all of these risks will increase, and that no country will be spared from the challenges directly related to climate change,” the official said.
Another report from the Department of Defense will focus on “the strategic and mission implications of climate change.” The official said it provides a “starting point” for how the Defense Department will tackle climate change and the effects it will have, laying out “a path forward.”
“Both climate change threats and the global efforts to address climate change will influence US defense, strategic interests, relationships, competition and priorities,” the official told reporters, adding that the report identifies “security implications of climate change for DoD at the strategic level, including impacts to missions, international partners, as well as risks to region, to protect our national security.”
A fourth analysis from the Department of Homeland Security gives “a strategic framework for addressing climate change to govern the department’s efforts to combat the climate crisis,” the official said.
“The strategic framework builds on DHS Climate Action Plan, and applies to strategy, plans, policy and budgets across DHS,” the official previewed. It includes plans for “empowering individuals and communities to develop climate resilience,” and building readiness to respond to increases in climate driven emergencies.
“It’s a really pivotal moment to underscore how the US is thinking about climate security, its risks, how we’re responding to many of those, and the heightened urgency we face in addressing climate change across all the different strategies and tools we have in our toolbox to demonstrate US leadership on this critical issue,” the senior administration official said.