Not too long after his predecessor, Donald Trump, had accorded the short shrift to such close-to-the-bone issues as climate change, President Joe Biden and his deputy, Vice-President Kamala Harris have given the appropriate priority to the raging climate crisis as a “core element of our national security and foreign policy”.
The report that was unveiled on Thursday is explicit on the point that the “climate crisis is reshaping our physical world”. The climate of the Earth, to which the generally impervious world belongs, is reshaping the physical world, with “ the Earth’s climate changing faster than at any point in modern history and extreme weather events becoming more frequent and severe”.
The document from Washington will hopefully be an appropriate template for the next round of jaw-jaw in Glasgow, after the infructuous meetings in Paris, Copenhagen and Cancun. In 2021, for example, wildfires raged across the western United States, throughout the Mediterranean region, and eastern Russia, Europe and China.
Nearer home, India had to contend with murderous floods in parallel to parts of the world which suffered unprecedented levels of drought. The world is already experiencing the devastating impacts that climate has wreaked on almost every aspect of our lives, from food and water insecurity to infrastructure and public health.
Verily has this crisis exacerbated inequalities of gender, race, ethnicity, and economic security. To quote the report, “we have reached a point where we cannot reverse some of the changes to the climate system”. The Biden administration’s parameters and analysis can form the core of the national security and foreign policy components of the US Government, in coordination with the National Security Council.
It has the potential to serve as a foundation for “our critical work on climate and security moving forward”. Thursday’s announcements fulfill key requirements of both the January 27 Executive Order (EO) 14008 on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad to put the climate crisis at the centre of U.S. foreign policy and national security and the February 29 Executive Order (EO) 14013 on Rebuilding and Enhancing Programs to Resettle Refugees and Planning for the Impact of Climate Change on Migration.
The announcements also reinforce President Biden’s commitment to evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data. While national security agencies led the development of these analyses, the nation’s premier science agencies played a central role in ensuring that the best available science and data were included in each product.
Climate change will increasingly exacerbate a number of risks to U.S. national security interests, from physical impacts that could cascade into security challenges, to how countries respond to the climate challenge. The fear has been expressed and that no country will be spared from challenges directly related to climate change.