Linking Climate Change, National Security

Intelligence agencies are debating the effects of climate change on national security. A classified assessment delivered to Congress concludes that rising global temperatures would indirectly present a security threat to the United States. This is the first time U.S. intelligence officials have weighed in on the issue.

Intelligence Agencies: Climate Threatens Security

Global climate change is likely to trigger humanitarian disasters and political instability that will have a major impact on U.S. national security, a top intelligence official told Congress on Wednesday.

A new assessment by the National Intelligence Council — with input from all 16 U.S. intelligence agencies — treats climate change as a security threat.

"Logic suggests the conditions exacerbated [by climate change] would increase the pool of potential recruits for terrorism," said Tom Fingar, deputy director of national intelligence for analysis, who testified before a joint House committee hearing Wednesday.

The confidential report says crop failures and rising sea levels could produce big population shifts and political instability, according to Fingar's testimony. Fingar quoted from the 58-page report exploring the implications of climate change for national security through the year 2030.

The intelligence assessment found Sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and Central and Southeast Asia are most vulnerable to warming-related drought, flooding, extreme weather and hunger, Fingar said.

But he warned that efforts to reduce global warming by changing energy policies "may affect U.S. national security interests even more than the physical impacts of climate change itself."

"The operative word there is may. We don't know," he said.

The report warned that the spillover from global climate change could be increased migration and water-related disputes, Fingar said.

He testified it predicts that the United States and most of its allies will have the means to cope with climate change economically. However, unspecified "regional partners" could face severe problems.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.