Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., introduced a bill to strengthen the climate security advisory council.

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo., introduced a bill to strengthen the climate security advisory council. Mandel Ngan-Pool/Getty Images

A House Lawmaker Has Proposed Strengthening a Council on Climate-Related Security Threats

The most recent annual threat assessment issued a dire warning about climate change. 

As climate change is becoming an increasing national security threat, a lawmaker is looking to shore up the resources in the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. 

Rep. Jason Crow, D-Colo, introduced legislation on Friday that would make permanent and expand the temporary Climate Security Advisory Council, which is housed under ODNI. It is a partnership between the intelligence and the federal science communities, including the Environmental Protection Agency, Energy and Interior departments, U.S. Geological Survey, Office of Naval Research, NASA, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, and National Science Foundation, as outlined in the first national intelligence estimate on climate change released in October, to which an ODNI spokesperson who declined to be named directed Government Executive when asked for information.

“Under both Republican and Democratic administrations, the Office of the Director of National Intelligence has recognized the security threat we face because of the climate crisis,” said Crow, who serves on the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, in a press release. “While we take meaningful steps to address this crisis, it’s essential we also equip our intelligence community to study and prepare for increasing climate-related security challenges.”

The Intelligence Authorization Act for fiscal year 2020 included a provision to create the Climate Security Advisory Council. The language ended up being included in that year’s National Defense Authorization Act and signed into law. The provision was a “watered down version” of another proposal and allocated “no dedicated staff and sunsets after five years,” Kaylin Dines, communications director for Crow, told Government Executive on Monday. Crow’s bill, which would amend the 1947 ​​National Security Act, “would end that sunset to make it permanent and expand the council to include a full climate security center,” Dines said. 

The center would continue the council’s work to conduct analysis of climate security, facilitate the exchange of climate data among agencies studying climate change and make sure the intelligence community prioritizes climate in its work. 

The bill would require the chair of the Climate Security Advisory Council to submit a plan to the congressional intelligence committees within 180 days that details the permanent establishment of the center that will transition from the council. 

Among other things, the plan should include, “the composition and staffing of the center with personnel from elements of the intelligence community and from departments and agencies of the United States government that are not elements of the intelligence community, including through the detail to the center of personnel who have the appropriate security clearances from such departments and agencies,” said the text of the bill. The director of national intelligence will choose the director of the center. 

The annual threat assessment for 2021—released in an unclassified version in April—contains a dire warning about climate change. 

“We assess that the effects of a changing climate and environmental degradation will create a mix of direct and indirect threats, including risks to the economy, heightened political volatility, human displacement, and new venues for geopolitical competition that will play out during the next decade and beyond,” said the report. “Scientists also warn that warming air, land, and sea temperatures create more frequent and variable extreme weather events, including heat waves, droughts, and floods that directly threaten the United States and U.S. interests, although adaptation measures could help manage the impact of these threats.” 

Additionally, “the degradation and depletion of soil, water, and biodiversity resources almost certainly will threaten infrastructure, health, water, food and security,” particularly in developing countries, as well as create the potential for conflict over competition for those resources.