Intelligence Director Says Climate Change Will Be ‘Center’ Of U.S. Foreign Policy

Avril Haines said the U.S. would address the phenomenon “not just to protect national security for America, but to protect human security around the world.”

Avril Haines, the director of national intelligence, said the Biden administration views climate change as an “urgent national security threat” that will be at the “center” of the country’s foreign policy.

Haines made the comments at a virtual two-day summit convened by the White House around Earth Day, during which President Joe Biden pledged the United States would slash carbon emissions at least 50% by 2030. The transformation would be a dramatic shift for the country and an essential step to help the world rein in climate change-causing emissions. The U.S. is the second-largest emitter of greenhouse gas emissions on the planet.

“For the intelligence community, climate change is both a near-term and a long-term threat that will define the next generation,” Haines said Thursday during the summit. “Our services have been raising increasing alarms about the impact that climate change has across every aspect of our work, as geophysical features of our Earth are being reshaped.”

She added: “To address climate change properly, it must be at the center of a country’s national security and foreign policy. It needs to be fully integrated into every aspect of our analysis.”

The Biden administration has moved this week to solidify action on climate change as a core tenet of its work, echoing scientists’ calls for decades that the world must rein in emissions and set aggressive targets to limit them completely as soon as possible. Biden’s plan is a notable departure from that of former President Donald Trump, who spent his four years in office downplaying the threats of climate change and undoing much of the work previous administrations had undertaken to address it.

Haines said she it was “necessary to inject climate science and analysis” across the work of the U.S. intelligence community, linking the threat of climate change to a spate of societal ills that could span generations.

“The impact will not be evenly distributed, disproportionately falling on poor and vulnerable populations,” Haines said. “Warmer temperatures could push tens of million of people … to migrate in the coming decades.”

She added that as director of national intelligence, she intended to make climate action “a whole of government effort, working not just to protect national security for America but to protect human security around the world.”

“Climate change knows no boundaries, respects no national borders and cannot be addressed … by any one nation on its own,” Haines said. “We must work together on the challenge before us.”

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