March 12, 2019

Cardin, Foreign Relations Committee Democrats Unveil Legislation to Thwart Trump Admin Efforts to Twist Climate Change Science and Eliminate its Utility for National Security Planning

WASHINGTON – In response to President Donald Trump’s recent efforts to undermine the prudent use of climate change data and forecasting in national security planning and analysis, U.S. Senator Ben Cardin (D-Md.) and 10 other Democrats, including all of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee members, introduced legislation to ensure that misguided political ideology on climate change does not compromise the quality of U.S. intelligence and national security strategies.

The introduction of The Climate Security Act of 2019 follows recent reports that National Security Council Senior Director, William Happer, an outspoken climate-change denier, is working on an Executive Order for the Trump Administration to “reassess” the threat of climate change and contradict the current consensus within the national intelligence community.

“How we respond to climate change is central to our national and economic security. The best available science tells us that climate change is causing irreparable harm to people who least can afford to adapt to the increasing instances and severity of extreme weather that are adding to social and economic instability around the globe,” said Senator Cardin. “Science must be the driving force behind good policy and planning, not politics.”

The Climate Security Act of 2019 was introduced by Senator Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), along with Cardin and Senators Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.); Chris Coons (D-Del.); Tom Udall (D-N.M.); Chris Murphy (D-Conn.); Tim Kaine (D-Va.); Ed Markey (D-Mass.); Jeff Merkley (D-Ore.); Cory Booker (D-N.J.); and Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii).

“Climate change is a threat to New Jersey, to the United States, and to the security and stability of our world. It’s a challenge we cannot afford to ignore,” said Senator Menendez. “Whether it’s disruptions to the food supply or forced migration from sea level rise or destruction wreaked by more powerful storms, climate change will likely exacerbate conflict and humanitarian crises around the world. National Security planning and analysis is only as good as the intelligence it is based on, and given the dangerously cavalier attitude this administration has towards the very real dangers of climate change, Congress must act to ensure politics doesn’t put our national security at risk.”

Just last week, more than 50 former senior military and national security officials  security officials, including former Secretary of State John Kerry and former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, penned a letter to the President emphasizing the need to include climate change in national security planning. The Climate Security Act of 2019 provides the statutory muscle necessary to address this need.

“President Trump has halted efforts to mitigate the impact of climate change and continues to deny scientific evidence that underscores the severity of this issue. It’s now on Congress to step in and respond to the stark warnings from our scientists and national security experts and take meaningful action to combat the effects of climate change,” said Shaheen. “This isn’t a matter of opinion or ideology – this is science. Climate change is real and it poses very serious threats to our national security, from leaving our military facilities vulnerable to extreme weather disasters to the impact on humanitarian crises around the globe. Ignoring the facts will put Americans in danger, at home and abroad.”

“Climate change isn’t just an environmental and economic threat, it’s also a serious national security threat, and we need to treat it that way,” said Senator Coons.  “We’ve heard time and again from top U.S. national security leaders that climate change is making the world less stable and less safe.  I am proud to support this effort to ensure that the State Department prioritizes this important issue.”

“As New Mexicans know all too well, climate change is real and we are already seeing its dangerous effects,” said Senator Udall. “We simply cannot afford to deny or ignore this existential threat, which not only poses grave dangers here at home, but also threatens to upend global stability and security. For too long, politics – not science or facts – have determined the completely inadequate response from some in government to climate change. We must change that, and we must do so urgently.”

“Climate change is real. Period. And it isn’t just an existential threat to this planet, it’s also a national security threat,” said Senator Murphy. “I’m proud to support Senator Menendez’s Climate Security Act because it develops fact-based, scientific solutions to address the threat countries all around the world are facing as it relates to climate change. President Trump and those around him continue to deny the clear and present danger of climate change, so it’s up to Congress to step up where this White House won’t.”

“In this new Congress, there’s an opportunity to make combatting climate change a core foreign policy priority,” said Senator Kaine. “This bill improves our ability to address the impacts of climate change on our national security assets – both abroad and at home, where sea level rise is threatening military bases like Naval Station Norfolk.”

“It is clear that climate change is already directly impacting America’s national security,” said Senator Markey. “It is amplifying instability globally, intensifying existing threats from infectious diseases and terrorist insurgencies, and undermining economic and social stability. It is fueling conflict and mass migration around the world. It is an existential threat not just to the United States, but to all of humankind. As one of the greatest challenges we face, climate change demands American leadership and attention, not deflection and denial. This legislation is an important first step in that direction, and I look forward to working with my colleagues to see it passed into law.”

“The national security community has warned us that inaction on climate change will leave U.S. military installations vulnerable to climate impacts, and that continued failure to address this challenge will result in instability across the globe due to the increase in extreme weather events, food insecurity, and climate refugees,” Booker said. “It is imperative that the U.S. take bold action to address this urgent threat.”

“We have ceded global leadership on climate at the same time the president has put a climate denier in charge of a bogus White House panel,” Senator Schatz said. “With this bill, the State Department will be mandated to have high-level diplomats focused on solving the planetary emergency we are in.”

For decades, and across both Democratic and Republican administrations, the integration of climate change data and forecasting has grown increasingly important and relevant to accurate national security planning and intelligence gathering. In 2014, the Department of Defense, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, labelled the effects of climate change as a “threat multiplier” that both creates technical challenges for military readiness and increases shocks and stresses in vulnerable countries currently in or on the verge of conflict.

Key provisions of The Climate Security Act of 2019 include:

  • Establishing a “Climate Security Envoy” within the State Department responsible for developing strategies for improving the integration of climate change science, data and forecasting in national security operations as well as facilitating interagency collaboration between the federal government’s science and security agencies.
  • Outlining policies for how climate change data and forecasting should inform national security planning and analysis, while calling for periodic global assessments on the risks climate change poses to national and global security.
  • Formally reestablishing the Special Envoy for the Arctic. The Arctic region is undergoing rapid and dramatic changes due to climate change, which in turn is creating new security challenges, driven by aggressive expansion of Russian influence and naval activity in the region that requires specials attention from the State Department in the form of this Special Envoy. President Trump dismantled the Special Envoy to the Arctic’s office in 2017.       

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