Climate change could become a national security risk, report says

WASHINGTON — A government report released Wednesday said climate change is likely to pose a significant national security challenge for the U.S. over the next two decades by heightening social and political tensions, threatening the stability of some countries and increasing risks to human health.

In conjunction with the report, President Barack Obama signed a presidential memorandum that orders federal agencies to account for climate change’s impacts when developing national security policy.

The White House said there is an increasing need for collaboration among scientists and the intelligence and national security communities. Obama’s memorandum establishes a working group to help in that effort and directs federal agencies to develop plans to deal with an array of potential scenarios resulting from climate change.

While the memorandum applies to the current administration, officials said they anticipated that future administrations would incorporate some of its requirements.

“The impacts of climate change on national security are only going to grow,” said Dr. John Holdren, director of the White House Office of Science and Technology Policy.

Six of the 17 hottest months on record have been the summer months of 2015 and 2016. The report said that over the next five years, the security risks for the U.S. linked to climate change will arise primarily from extreme weather events and water shortages. Over the next 20 years, broader systemic changes such as rising sea levels could threaten small island states and low-lying coastal regions.

“Over 20 years, the next effects of climate change on the patterns of global human movement and statelessness could be dramatic, perhaps unprecedented,” said the report, which comes from the office of the Director of National Intelligence.