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  • Ryan Wittler

What the Biden Administration Is Doing About the Impact of Climate Change on National Security


Last Thursday, the Biden administration released four analyses from key national security and foreign policy “components” (the bureaucratic way of saying agencies or departments) of the Federal Government.

According to the administration, the analyses will serve as the “foundation” of its work on climate and national security moving forward.

We’ll give you a brief summary and the relevant highlights from each below.

The National Intelligence Estimate on Climate Change (NIECC):

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence oversaw the first-ever NIECC, representing the consensus view of all 18 “elements” (another bureaucratic way of saying agencies or departments) of the Intelligence Community (IC).

The analysis found the impacts of climate change will “exacerbate a number of risks” to national security, including “physical impacts” that could turn into conflicts and how other countries will respond to climate change.

In all, the IC found three broad categories of risk:

  1. Increased geopolitical tension as countries decide how to address climate change, which country should do the most, and compete in the inevitable energy transition;

  2. Cross-border “flashpoints” from the physical effects of climate change as countries move to secure their own interests; and

  3. Climate change causing instability in countries and regions “of concern.”


The Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis (DCRA):

The DCRA is the first Pentagon report analyzing the strategic risks of climate change, integrating climate concerns into key DOD strategic, planning, and budget documents. The White House says including climate concerns in key documents will “ensure the DOD considers the effects of climate change at every level.”

The DCRA will also inform how the DOD incorporates climate change into its decisions with our allies and partners. The administration says it’ll serve as a “starting point for a shared understanding” of the strategic risks of climate change.


The Department of Homeland Security Strategic Framework to Address Climate Change:

The new framework, developed through the first-ever DHS Climate Change Action Group, will guide the department’s work implementing Biden’s strategy addressing climate change “at home and abroad.”

It includes five “lines of effort:”

  1. Empowering people and communities to develop climate resilience;

  2. Building readiness to respond to climate emergencies;

  3. Incorporating climate science into strategy, policy, programs, and budgets;

  4. Investing in the DHS to make it more resilient to climate change; and

  5. Ensuring DHS employees are informed about climate change.


Report on the Impact of Climate Change on Migration:

Making good on a week-one executive order, the report marks the first time the U.S. is officially recognizing a link between climate change and migration, identifying migration as an “important form of adaptation to the impacts of climate change” in certain regions (like Northeastern grandparents moving to Florida).

The administration says assessing the link and developing humanitarian policies around them will decrease the likelihood of migration, though acknowledges that climate change is rarely the sole driver of it.

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