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  5. Why Is Earth Systems Science Essential to National Security

Why Is Earth Systems Science Essential to National Security

Disasters from all-hazards and climate change will continue to affect our homeland and challenge DHS across a range of missions and frontline operations, exacerbating known and unknown risks to public safety and national security. Physical impacts of extreme weather and changing climatic conditions, such as environmental degradation, will increasingly intersect with human impacts of population growth, economic development, and technological innovation.

U.S. Department of Homeland Security seal. Office of Intelligence and Analysis Homeland Thread Assessment 2024 report.

The 2024 DHS Office of Intelligence and Analysis Homeland Threat Assessment mentions climate change and natural disasters as acute and systemic threats to the United States, often converging with more traditional national security threats. Climate‑related disasters, such as heat waves, droughts, wildfires, coastal storms, and inland flooding, have the potential to disrupt regional economies, foster health crises like disease outbreaks, and tax law enforcement resources.

The Department will be affected in the short- and long-term with rising disaster costs and losses, worsening risks of environmental degradation, critical infrastructure and supply chain disruptions, civil unrest, and social instability. Adversarial threats from climate terrorism and extremism will continue to emerge as malign actors seek to exploit these risks for advantage and tensions mount with particular effects on the most vulnerable.

Both the Department of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence have also identified climate change as a major transnational security threat: 

Annual Threat Assessment of the U.S. Intelligence Community report. Map of U.S. Seal of Office of the Director of National Intelligence. February 6, 2023.
  • Director of National Intelligence Annual Threat Assessment, February 26, 2023(PDF, 40 pgs., 1.3 MB) “Climate change will increasingly exacerbate risks to U.S. national security interests as the physical impacts increase and geopolitical tensions mount about the global response to the challenge. The increasing physical effects of climate change also are likely to intensify or cause domestic and cross-border geopolitical flashpoints.”
  • Department of Defense Climate Risk Analysis, October 2021(PDF, 18 pgs., 1.5 MB) “Climate change is reshaping the geostrategic, operational, and tactical environments with significant implications for U.S. national security and defense.”

In 2021, DHS issued a Strategic Framework for Addressing Climate Change and incorporated climate change as a priority in its strategic and long-term planning. Close and continuous research into key areas will enable DHS to make sound tactical and strategic decisions and inform key policy and investments decisions to enhance U.S. resilience to the impacts of climate change, ensure U.S. leadership in climate adaption, resilience, and sustainability innovation, and best positioned to address emerging security challenges and future risks.

Last Updated: 03/05/2024
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