Why The Intelligence Community Needs a Climate Change Task Force

Kristin Wood, Sr. Climate Editor, The Cipher Brief

Kristin Wood is the Senior Climate Editor for The Cipher Brief, a Cipher Brief knowledgeable, a non-resident fellow on the Harvard Kennedy School’s Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs’ Intelligence Project, and a former senior CIA officer with 20 years of expertise in evaluation, operations, and innovation and expertise.

Erin Sikorsky, Deputy Director, Center for Climate and Security

Erin Sikorsky is the Deputy Director of the Center for Climate and Security (CCS), the Director of the International Military Council on Climate and Security(IMCCS), and an adjunct professor at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy & Government. Previously, she served because the Deputy Director of the Strategic Futures Group on the US National Intelligence Council (NIC). Ms. Sikorsky labored within the US intelligence neighborhood for over a decade.

EXPERT PERSPECTIVE — President Biden’s 27 January Executive Order (EO) on Tackling the Climate Crisis at Home and Abroad demonstrates a sturdy dedication to making ready the United States for addressing the local weather disaster. It assigns skilled local weather consultants into highly effective new roles and points in depth orders for a whole-of-government response. This article analyzes the Intelligence Community features of the EO.

For nationwide safety companies, the EO orders companies to evaluate inside 90 days:

—  Climate impacts related to broad company methods particularly nations or areas;

—  Climate impacts on their agency-managed infrastructure overseas (e.g., embassies, army installations), with out prejudice to current necessities concerning evaluation of such infrastructure;

—  How the company intends to handle such impacts or incorporate threat mitigation into its set up grasp plans; and

—   How the company’s worldwide work, together with associate engagement, can contribute to addressing the local weather disaster.

Fully maximizing the effectiveness of the 18 IC companies’ particular person responses to the EO would require a coordinated technique. While the EO requires a National Intelligence Estimate on local weather change, representing coordinated evaluation amongst all companies is just one piece of the puzzle.

Building a true local weather safety intelligence technique would require an analysis of how the IC’s core missions of assortment and evaluation can contribute to addressing local weather threats. This would require an evaluation of the IC’s folks, packages and insurance policies in addition to what’s lacking, what must be adjusted, and what new expertise, capabilities and sources are required.

The overriding query for assortment and evaluation is: what determination benefit can the IC provide the President in relation to local weather points?  What distinctive local weather change-related info can the intelligence neighborhood accumulate and analyze that will serve US nationwide safety? Are there new types of assortment and evaluation, particularly scientific evaluation wanted? How may the CIA’s distinctive capabilities, for instance, be dropped at bear? A rigorous course of geared toward answering these questions ought to study what new necessities have to be levied, what new sources HUMINT, SIGINT, and different collectors want to seek out, and what partnerships have to be deepened or created.

To conduct this analysis, we propose creating an ODNI National Security and Climate Change Task Force that appears at every company’s contributions to the EO and stitches them into a whole-of-IC strategy to local weather throughout all missions. A blue-ribbon panel of local weather and safety consultants from each inside and outside authorities would provide a recent perspective on how the IC may greatest contribute to tackling this mission.  In addition to providing experience that principally resides outdoors the IC, exterior individuals could be a test on companies’ tendencies, which we’ve skilled a number of instances over the a long time, to relabel current entities with a new identify as a solution to govt necessities.

Such a activity pressure is prone to determine obligatory changes to IC spending, personnel, and infrastructure. Additional management positions or new constructions inside companies could also be wanted to implement activity pressure suggestions in the long term. For instance, higher integration of local weather modeling and information, open-source assortment, and categorized info might require new instruments and new groups to totally implement. On high of changes to assortment and evaluation, the IC additionally should contemplate direct local weather change dangers to its amenities and infrastructure. Therefore, the duty pressure ought to embody an IC Climate Resilience and Adaptation Subcommittee with finance, amenities and safety experience.

We provide under some points such a activity pressure may contemplate, drawn from engagements with lots of of consultants on local weather safety points over the previous few years:

  • IC strategic foresight and early warning capabilities and expertise have been diminished over time by different priorities. They are very a lot wanted to help menace anticipation and preparedness on a vary of intersecting dangers linked to local weather change, from water and meals insecurity, regional conflicts, infectious illnesses, and pure disasters. Global developments work — usually relegated to the bodily and metaphorical basement — must be entrance and heart. The Biden Administration has already signaled its prioritization of a extra built-in strategy to monitoring international threats by its name for the creation of a National Center for Epidemic Forecasting and Outbreak Analytics to modernize international early warning and set off programs to forestall, detect, and reply to organic threats. The varieties of contributions the IC would make to such a heart may and needs to be replicated within the local weather safety realm.
  • Climate safety dangers additionally create alternatives to make use of the CIA’s distinctive abroad partnerships in new methods. CIA stations and bases could be excellent management nodes for partnering on local weather change, permitting the Agency to faucet into current liaison relationships to generate projections that nobody else may. The CIA may play a vital function in serving to US policymakers perceive different nations’ plans and intentions to answer local weather safety threats. Additionally, local weather change may very well be an space of partnership with nations comparable to Russia and China.
  • While conducting local weather science throughout the US authorities will stay the purview of scientific companies comparable to NOAA, NASA, and others, IC companies want extra personnel with scientific literacy and backgrounds. At a minimal, companies will want extra local weather scientists on their groups and nearer partnerships with them in order that deep scientific understanding is included in assortment necessities and analytic writing.

Finally, we be aware the National Climate Task Force created by the EO doesn’t embody the DNI as a member. While that appears a logical alternative as the duty pressure is concentrated domestically, the truth is that the division between international and home operations simply doesn’t work for local weather. For instance, the IC can reply international coverage and homeland safety questions on subjects comparable to prospects for climate-expanded migration to US borders, precise versus publicly supplied achievement of different nations’ local weather aims, amongst many different issues. The IC can even leverage its distinctive capabilities to know how different actors are responding to local weather change results–i.e., not simply what’s going to they do in emissions negotiations, however clarify how points comparable to water shortage considerations drive Chinese international coverage within the area.

As President Biden mentioned when signing the local weather govt order final month, his motion made “it official that climate change will be the center of our national security and foreign policy.” The safety threats posed by local weather change develop with every passing day and addressing them requires innovation and new conceptions of nationwide safety. As it has so many instances earlier than, on many alternative threats, the IC can and may step as much as play a main, transformative function on local weather safety dangers, integrating throughout missions to ship probably the most insightful evaluation attainable in help of the President’s directive and in service to the American folks.

Read extra expert-driven nationwide safety evaluation, perspective and opinion in The Cipher Brief

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