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April 29, 2021

King: Climate Change is a National Security Threat Worldwide

Director of National Intelligence Agrees that “Without Question” the Warming Trend Raises Intelligence, Security Concerns

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a founding member of the Senate bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, pressed Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines on the range of national security risks linked to the effects of climate change – including mass migration due to warming temperatures, straining governments worldwide. During the exchange, which came during a “Worldwide Threat Assessment” hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director Haines agreed with Senator King’s concerns and offered insight into how the Intelligence Community (IC) assesses climate change as an emerging national security threat.

SENATOR KING: “Expand a bit on climate change as a national security concern – the one I’m particularly concerned about is incipient migration from areas of the world that become essentially inhabitable because of drought, famine, and extreme heat. Do you see this as a threat multiplier, as a serious national security concern, as well as of course an environmental concern?”

DIRECTOR HAINES: “I do, absolutely. I think part of the challenge for us is recognizing that climate change has just enormous impact in every aspect of our lives, and with respect to almost every threat that we are facing is figuring out how to actually embed and integrate climate science and analysis essentially across the board of our Intelligence Community work, so that we can ensure that we are actually lifting up the places where it’s in fact having that kind of impact. So, to your point, without question, the impact that climate is having on migration is something that we have written about within the Intelligence Community, the trend lines that that produces, the concerns that that creates. Another example is in the context of increased droughts, and the shifting boundaries of dry areas. What you see is that affects agriculture, that in turn creates tension that can drive conflict, for example, that’s another aspect of it. You see increasing floods. That’s obviously a challenge for countries around the world, particularly ones that don’t have the resilience to react to them in a way that allows them to continue and can actually promote fractures of societies as a consequence over time. There’s so many different aspects of this challenge and what we’ve been trying to do is ensure we can bring in that expertise and integrate it effectively and make it available across the community so that we can integrate that work into our daily work and effect, while also looking at the long term trends it produces.”


Senator King also followed up with Director Haines on a question that he posed to witnesses as Chairman of yesterday’s Subcommittee on Strategic Forces hearing on nuclear deterrence, focusing on ways to prevent non-state actors from acquiring nuclear weapons.

SENATOR KING: “We’ve pivoted largely from a focus on terrorism to peer and near-peer state competition and I understand and I think that’s appropriate. I am still concerned however, about the terrorist threat, and the particular one that keeps me up at night, is terrorist access to a nuclear device either through development or more likely through purchase. Deterrence has protected us from nuclear conflict for seventy years. Deterrence wouldn’t work with a terrorist organization. Talk to me about the role of intelligence in protecting us from the nightmare of a nuclear weapon in the hold of a tramp steamer bound in the port of New York or Miami”

DIRECTOR HAINES: “Absolutely, Senator, and I know you know a fair amount about how we work on these issues – particularly given your role on the Intelligence Committee. I would say that part of the effort in, as you say the rebalance, in effect, recognizing the rise of state-to-state competition is not taking your eye off the ball of non-state actor and transnational threats, including terrorism, and that is absolutely something that we’re committed to and in the context of, in particular terrorist groups, we monitor and try to track them to the best degree that we can… We are, in particular, looking for the kinds of weapons that they can use that give them extraordinary capacity to have catastrophic effects and we look to ensure we understand those networks as best we can and then provide whatever warning were capable of providing under the circumstances.”

As Chair of the Subcommittee on Strategic Forces, and a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and the Senate Select Committee on Intelligence, Senator King is recognized as a thoughtful voice on national security and foreign policy issues in the Senate. In addition to his committee work, Senator King serves on the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, the Senate North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) Observer Group, and is co-chair of the Cyberspace Solarium Commission. He voted in favor of the Senate’s passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2021, which includes several funding and policy priorities advocated for by Senator King to support military facilities and communities in Maine and advance the national defense. The legislation – containing 25 bipartisan cybersecurity recommendations from the Cyberspace Solarium Commission – became law earlier this year after Senator King and the overwhelming majority of his colleagues voted to override President Trump’s veto.

Senator King is also a forceful advocate for efforts to combat climate change due to the threats posed on the environment, public health, and national security. Yesterday, he voted to reinstate key regulations of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry – the largest domestic source of this dangerous greenhouse gas, which traps 84 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide. The Senate voted 52 to 42 to pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), rescinding last year’s Trump Administration rollback of critical methane regulations that weakened or completely eliminated requirements that oil and natural gas companies limit methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from their operations. The resolution was led by Senators King, Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and supported by a bipartisan group of senators including Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine). Earlier, Senator King spoke on the Senate floor in support of the resolution. Additionally, Senator King a lead sponsor on a range of bills that encourage energy efficiency and research on clean energy technologies; such as the Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act, which aims to incentivize the recycling of rechargeable and electrochemical batteries needed to meet the United States’ growing clean energy needs and decrease dependence on critical mineral imports, and the Joint Long-Term Storage Act seeks to speed up deployment of long-duration energy storage technologies through strategic collaboration between federal agencies. 

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