Statement of Task: Assessing the Impact of Climate
Change on Social and Political Stresses
The National Research Council (NRC) would undertake a study to evaluate the evidence on possible connections between climate change and U.S. national security concerns and to identify ways to increase the ability of the intelligence community to take climate change into account in assessing political and social stresses with implications for U.S. national security. The study panel would focus on several broad questions, such as: What are the major social and political factors affecting the relationship between climate change and outcomes relevant to U.S. national security? What is the basis for this knowledge and how strong is it? What research and measurement strategies would strengthen the basis for this knowledge?
The study panel would develop a conceptual framework for addressing such issues on the basis of two workshops, existing research literature, and relevant NRC studies. It would produce a report including its conceptual framework and findings and conclusions regarding the key climate-security connections and issues of assessment of climate-related security risks examined in the workshops and the scientific literature. It would also identify variables that should be monitored and ways that indicators of climate change, impacts, and vulnerabilities might be developed and made useful to the intelligence community in assessing climate-related threats to U.S. national security.
within the mission of the U.S. intelligence community. This mission covers a broad range of risks. It includes possible military attacks on the United States, its allies and partners, and American facilities overseas, but it is much broader. The intelligence community is also responsible for assessing the likelihood of violent subnational conflicts in countries and regions with extremist groups, dangerous weapons, critical resources, or other conditions of security concern. It must also anticipate and assess various other risks to the stability of states and regions and risks of major humanitarian disasters in key regions of the world, both because of the indirect threats such risks may pose to the United States or its allies and because of national commitment to the principles of U.N. Security Council Resolution 1674, which proclaims “the responsibility to protect populations from genocide, war crimes, ethnic cleansing and crimes against humanity.”
Given these intelligence mission elements, the central questions motivating this study are: How might climate change lead to new or increased risks to U.S. national security? Might it, for example, put new stresses on societies or on systems that support human well-being, such as supply chains for food or energy, and thus pose or alter security risks to the United States? Will intelligence and security organizations need to gather