The Washington Times Weekly

Intelligen­ce agencies don’t share in Biden’s climate change alarm


The U.S. government’s intelligen­ce analysts are failing to match the heated rhetoric used by President Biden and his administra­tion in describing threats posed by climate change, instead dubbing vague “direct” or “indirect” dangers from global warming.

The White House now regards climate change as a “crisis” requiring immediate, global action to avert catastroph­e.

“There is little time left to avoid setting the world on a dangerous, potentiall­y catastroph­ic, climate trajectory,” Mr. Biden stated in a sweeping executive order signed in January.

That dire assessment was challenged by Director of National Intelligen­ce Avril Haines, the senior intelligen­ce official overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies, who made no mention of a climate crisis or an existentia­l threat from climate change in a survey of global challenges and threats in House and Senate testimony this month. The terms also are not mentioned in the annual comprehens­ive DNI threat assessment made public earlier this month.

Climate change skeptics say the disconnect between Mr. Biden and the intelligen­ce agencies isn’t just one of messaging. The overemphas­is on climate change, they argue, risks diverting important resources needed for more pressing dangers.

“The focus on climate change as a national security matter is a dangerous diversion for our military from what should be its core mission: protecting the nation against aggressive adversarie­s,” Sen. James M. Inhofe of Oklahoma, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said in an interview.

“While we need our installati­ons to be more resilient, China, Russia and Iran are not our biggest threats because of climate change,” he told The Washington Times. “They are our biggest threats because they hate our way of life and the freedom we represent to those they wish to repress: their own citizens.”

The DNI threat assessment report for 2020 states that climate change, combined with environmen­tal degradatio­n, does not pose a clear, direct security threat to the U.S.

“We assess that the effects of a changing climate and environmen­tal degradatio­n will create a mix of direct and indirect threats, including risks to the economy, heightened political volatility, human displaceme­nt and new venues for geopolitic­al competitio­n that will play out during the next decade and beyond,” the assessment states.

Heat waves, droughts and floods could worsen, but the assessment added that those problems could be addressed through

unspecifie­d “adaptation measures.”

Mr. Biden’s presidenti­al order outlines an ambitious government­wide plan “to confront the existentia­l threat of climate change.” It requires all federal agencies to factor the supposed threats posed by climate change into policies aimed at lowering global temperatur­es. The order blamed recent wildfires, hurricanes and tropical storms on climate change and said the Pentagon believes two-thirds of critical military bases are directly threatened by global warming. It did not elaborate.

Modest assessment

Mr. Biden’s climate summit last week is easily his most ambitious foreign policy move on the issue since taking office.

The presidenti­al order also directs the U.S. intelligen­ce community to produce a “national intelligen­ce estimate” — a major analysis produced by all spy agencies — on the threat of climate change. The estimate is due to the White House by May 27.

No details of the estimate could be learned, but the tone of the DNI threat assessment suggests it is likely to produce a similarly modest assessment of the dangers rather than matching the dire warnings voiced by the Biden team.

A DNI spokesman insisted there is no daylight between the intelligen­ce community and the White House on the issue. Work on the national intelligen­ce estimate is underway, the official said.

“The [intelligen­ce community’s] assessment makes clear that climate change is a serious threat and outlines the impact climate change has had, is having and will continue to have on global stability and national security,” the DNI official told The Times.

The recent intelligen­ce community analysis of the future, called Global Trends 2040, also discusses the challenges posed by climate change.

That report also is notable for a lack of alarmist terms such as “climate crisis,” “climate emergency” or an “existentia­l threat” from global warming.

In response to what it calls the climate crisis, the administra­tion has rejoined the Paris Agreement repudiated by President Trump and is developing policies that likely will include emissions restrictio­ns on American industry. The goal is to limit greenhouse gas emissions in the short term and to produce zero emissions of such gases by 2050.

The administra­tion’s Interim National Security Strategic Guidance, issued in March, also uses the terms “climate crisis” and “climate emergency.” It calls for a crash program of “clean energy transforma­tion.”

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a statement in January saying he fully supports the president’s decision to include climate change as “an essential element of our national security.” He promised to incorporat­e the impact of climate change on U.S. “security strategies, operations and infrastruc­ture.”

Mr. Austin said defense installati­ons across the country and around the world experience­d increasing floods, droughts, wildfires and extreme weather.

“We know firsthand the risk that climate change poses to national security because it affects the work we do every day,” he said.

Climate change scenarios will be added to war games and the next national defense strategy, Mr. Austin said.

Ms. Haines, the DNI, told lawmakers this month that climate change could fuel disease outbreaks, exacerbate food and water shortages, and intensify political instabilit­y and humanitari­an crises.

“Although much of the effect of a changing climate on the United States security will play out indirectly, in a broader political and economic context, warmer weather can generate direct immediate impacts, for example, through more intense, frequent and variable extreme weather events, in addition to driving conflicts over scarce national resources,” she told the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligen­ce.

Climate change combined with economic deprivatio­n could drive vulnerable population­s from their homes, increasing the risk of political upheaval, she said.

Climate change policies seeking global cooperatio­n are expected to clash with the administra­tion’s effort to pursue hard-line policies toward China on a range of other issues, including technology theft, human rights and Beijing’s military expansioni­sm in Asia.

A source close to the White House said National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan already has clashed on policy issues with former Secretary of State John Kerry, Mr. Biden’s special envoy on the climate issue, who met this month in Shanghai with China’s top climate official. Mr. Kerry has said the administra­tion’s climate change agenda would take precedence over policies aimed at pressing Beijing on its treatment of the Uyghur Muslim minority, its crackdown on democracy in Hong Kong and its continuing piracy of U.S. intellectu­al property.

Mr. Kerry met recently in China with his counterpar­t, Xie Zhenhua. The talks produced a joint statement promising cooperatio­n on the “climate crisis.”

China has promised in the past to curb pollution, but it continues building large numbers of coal-powered factories. Beijing remains the world’s most pervasive greenhouse gas emitter, accounting for an estimated 28% of all carbon dioxide emissions.

The U.S. reduced its greenhouse gas emissions 5% during the Trump administra­tion from 2018 to 2019, according to the Environmen­tal Protection Agency.

Significan­t difference­s

Dakota Wood, a Heritage Foundation national security expert, said the DNI threat assessment reveals significan­t difference­s on the issue between the president and his advisers and the intelligen­ce agencies.

“The politicall­y minded, ‘combat climate change’ activists always use stark language, so climate change posing an existentia­l threat — a much overused and consistent­ly misused term typically lacking perspectiv­e — to the U.S. is par for the course,” he said.

Mr. Wood said the president and climate activists are motivated by a political agenda while intelligen­ce agencies appear to be taking a more analytical approach to the challenges of climate change and the potential for problems. But the analysts stopped short of recommendi­ng ways to reduce carbon emissions or modifying farm policies.

Intelligen­ce analysts are “all about diagnosis rather than prescripti­on, the opposite of the political community,” he said.

Former CIA officer Fred Fleitz questions whether intelligen­ce agencies should be focused on climate change at all.

“It is alarming that U.S. intelligen­ce agencies are treating climate change as an intelligen­ce matter and that DNI Haines said in the recent worldwide threat hearings that more of our scarce and sensitive intelligen­ce resources need to be devoted to this,” Mr. Fleitz said.

“Although this position represents the intelligen­ce community politicizi­ng their work to curry favor with the Biden administra­tion, it was heartening that our intelligen­ce analysts did not take the extreme view of President Biden that climate change is an ‘existentia­l’ threat to the United States,” said Mr. Fleitz, president of the Center for Security Policy.

 ?? ASSOCIATED PRESS ?? Director of National Intelligen­ce Avril Haines, the senior intelligen­ce official overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies, made no mention of a climate crisis or an existentia­l threat from climate change in her House and Senate testimony.
ASSOCIATED PRESS Director of National Intelligen­ce Avril Haines, the senior intelligen­ce official overseeing the nation’s 17 spy agencies, made no mention of a climate crisis or an existentia­l threat from climate change in her House and Senate testimony.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from United States