The Jackson Foundation and Pacific Northwest National Laboratory (PNNL) had a closed-door symposium that focused attention on the intersection of national security and climate change and how to better prepare decision-makers to act. The extraordinary gathering of high caliber individuals representing federal, State and local government – including the U.S. military – as well as businesses, NGOs and academia, convened to highlight the urgency of climate change and its impact on our country’s national security.
Why this topic? For starters, Senator Jackson was an early voice raising concerns about our nation’s energy resources and national security. His environmental legacy included a sweeping view of what it meant to manage environmental resources wisely, and he also had vision and perspective that encompassed changing global trends in energy use as well as security needs. That perspective is lacking today in Washington, DC. The Foundation and PNNL sought to underscore the interconnectedness of global climate changes and security threats such as reduced water resources, population migration, extreme weather events, political instability due to diminished food resources, and the like. The U.S. military has this first and foremost on its radar, as was evidenced by the top-level representatives at the symposium.
The White House has taken a public stand and is trying to light a fire on this issue nationally. Alice Hill, White House Senior Advisor for Preparedness and Resilience, pressed the point: “The workshop participants emphasized the urgency of addressing climate change and its impacts on our country’s national security and determined that it is critical to take immediate action.” The Foundation and PNNL intend to pursue this issue and ensure that it remains front and center before policymakers in Congress as well as state and local governments.
As Congressman Adam Smith said, “We can’t separate this out and say climate change is an energy problem and not a national security problem.” Larry Phillips, Foundation Board member and Chair of the King County Council, has been a leader in thinking strategically about climate impacts in the greater Seattle region. He concluded: “We have a duty to lead on threats from climate change that are making us vulnerable now.”
The Jackson Foundation and PNNL sponsored a press and public briefing the day after the symposium on June 5. Watch the event here.
We are holding a Washington, DC briefing on July 29 at the Woodrow Wilson Center to further highlight the national security threats posed by climate changes today as well as tomorrow. Look for more information coming on that event soon.
Lara Iglitzin, Executive Director