© 2024 Ideastream Public Media

1375 Euclid Avenue, Cleveland, Ohio 44115
(216) 916-6100 | (877) 399-3307

WKSU is a public media service licensed to Kent State University and operated by Ideastream Public Media.
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

U.S. Intelligence Warns Against Security Implications Of Leaving Paris Accord


As President Trump announced he would pull the U.S. out of the Paris climate accord, an international agreement negotiated by nearly 200 countries, many people were paying close attention. Among them, generals and spies. The Pentagon and U.S. intelligence agencies are grappling with the effects of climate change on national security. NPR's national security correspondent, Mary Louise Kelly, is with us to explain. Hey there.


MCEVERS: So first, just explain this link between climate and security. I mean, we hear a lot about the challenges posed by a warming planet, but how is it a national security threat?

KELLY: Sure. Well, the link is that climate change causes instability. The most recent U.S. intelligence assessment on this came out this past fall. It was a declassified report from the director of National Intelligence, and it described how extreme weather that might have been triggered by, might be worsened by climate change - how extreme weather will, in turn, result in things like crop failure or wildfires or energy blackouts or outbreaks of infectious disease. And the report adds that you start looking out over the next two decades and looking at systemic changes like rising sea levels, and it concludes climate change will pose a significant national security challenge for the United States.

MCEVERS: Can you give us an example?

KELLY: Sure. I mean, again, to cite this report from the director of national intelligence, it points to Somalia, how militants there, al-Shabab militants, have exploited crop failure and famine to sow chaos. The report points to the Arctic, and this is a big one. U.S. intelligence says the Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet. And that, of course, opens up opportunities, new shipping lanes, new opportunities to exploit natural resources, oil and gas. It also opens up potential for conflict over that access.

MCEVERS: As I said, the generals at the Pentagon have been tracking the president's decision pretty closely. How is climate change affecting the battlefield?

KELLY: Well, you can look close to home - Norfolk, Va. That would be the biggest U.S. Navy base. And there in Norfolk they're already grappling with rising sea levels. There are regular reports coming in of piers where submarines are docked that are flooded, disappearing under water. And then globally, Kelly, all, kinds of challenges. I actually would love to play you a comment here from Gerald Galloway. He is a retired Army brigadier general now with the nonpartisan Center for Climate and Security. We asked him recently on NPR, why does a warming planet pose a national security threat? Here's what he said.


GERALD GALLOWAY: If you can't get your aircraft off an airfield because it's under water, if you can't land troops in a foreign country because the beach you thought was going to be something you could land on is no longer there, then it's a national security issue. If our allies are having problems in their own country as a result of such things as drought where there is instability in the country, instability breeds conflict.

KELLY: So I checked in with General Galloway today, and he said he is concerned by this news of the withdrawal from the Paris accord.

MCEVERS: I'm going to ask the question. What might be the consequences from a national security point of view of withdrawing the U.S. from the Paris Agreement?

KELLY: Well, the question of global leadership would be key. I mean, you cannot, of course, draw a direct line between the U.S. decision today to pull out and an imminent threat tomorrow, you know, a terror threat, terror attack tomorrow of course. But the concern here is if this represents the U.S. pulling away from a global leadership role that would leave a void, and that void is one that America's rivals and adversaries will be keen to fill.

MCEVERS: NPR's Mary Louise Kelly, thank you very much.

KELLY: You're welcome. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by an NPR contractor. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Accuracy and availability may vary. The authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio record.

Mary Louise Kelly is a co-host of All Things Considered, NPR's award-winning afternoon newsmagazine.