February 17, 2010

In Inaugural Review, DHS Says Climate Change Could Shape Security Environment

The Department of Homeland Security released its inaugural Quadrennial Homeland Security Review (QHSR) last week. According to the report, the QHSR will "Describe more comprehensively the Nation’s homeland security interests, identify more clearly the critical homeland security missions, and define more completely a strategic approach to those missions by laying out the principal goals, essential objectives, and key strategic outcomes necessary for that strategic approach to succeed."

I thought it might be useful to pullout a few of the natural security-related statements from the review. Perhaps most importantly, the QHSR describes today’s security environment and includes long-term trends linked to energy security and climate change that could threaten American interests:

Dependence on fossil fuels and the threat of global climate change that can open the United States to disruptions and manipulations in energy supplies and to changes in our natural environment on an unprecedented scale. Climate change is expected to increase the severity and frequency of weather-related hazards, which could, in turn, result in social and political destabilization, international conflict, or mass migrations. (p. 7)

Indeed, recognizing that climate change is a long-term trend that could threaten American interests should be kept in mind when reading Mission 5: Ensuring resilience to disasters:

The strategic aims and objectives for ensuring resilience to disasters are grounded in the four traditional elements of emergency management:  hazard mitigation, enhanced preparedness, effective emergency response, and rapid recovery. Together, these elements will help create a Nation that understands the hazards and risks we face, is prepared for disasters, and can withstand and rapidly and effectively recover from the disruptions they cause. (p. 59)

While the Department will likely need to consider climate change along all elements of the emergency management spectrum, integrating climate change into its hazard mitigation and enhanced preparedness elements could prove to be the most beneficial. Indeed, as the Department strengthens its efforts to build local, state and federal capacity to respond to disasters and to mitigate disasters that could threaten communities, integrating how climate change will affect individual communities could help bolster that resilience and to help mitigate future risks.

With the Quadrennial Defense Review and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Review both describing current and future security environments that could be shaped by long-term trends associated with climate change, it will be interesting to see how the forthcoming National Security Strategy will integrate climate change into its assessment. As Christine Parthemore and I write in our working paper, “It is very likely that President Obama’s National Security Strategy will describe a more complicated national security environment, characterized by non-traditional threats and responses, with climate change explicitly identified in that context.”  Indeed, the QDR and QHSR may just preview the National Security Strategy. We’ll see.