Director of National Intelligence agrees that “without question” the warming trend raises intelligence, security concerns

April 30, 2021

U.S. Senator Angus King (I-Maine), a founding member of the Senate bipartisan Climate Solutions Caucus, pressed Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines on the range of national security risks linked to the effects of climate change – including mass migration due to warming temperatures, straining governments worldwide.

During the exchange, which came during a “Worldwide Threat Assessment” hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Director Haines agreed with Senator King’s concerns and offered insight into how the Intelligence Community (IC) assesses climate change as an emerging national security threat.

Here is the exchange that took place in committee:

SENATOR KING: “Expand a bit on climate change as a national security concern – the one I’m particularly concerned about is incipient migration from areas of the world that become essentially inhabitable because of drought, famine, and extreme heat. Do you see this as a threat multiplier, as a serious national security concern, as well as of course an environmental concern?”

DIRECTOR HAINES:  “I do, absolutely. I think part of the challenge for us is recognizing that climate change has just enormous impact in every aspect of our lives, and with respect to almost every threat that we are facing is figuring out how to actually embed and integrate climate science and analysis essentially across the board of our Intelligence Community work, so that we can ensure that we are actually lifting up the places where it’s in fact having that kind of impact.

“So, to your point, without question, the impact that climate is having on migration is something that we have written about within the Intelligence Community, the trend lines that that produces, the concerns that that creates. Another example is in the context of increased droughts, and the shifting boundaries of dry areas. What you see is that affects agriculture, that in turn creates tension that can drive conflict, for example, that’s another aspect of it.

“You see increasing floods. That’s obviously a challenge for countries around the world, particularly ones that don’t have the resilience to react to them in a way that allows them to continue and can actually promote fractures of societies as a consequence over time. There’s so many different aspects of this challenge and what we’ve been trying to do is ensure we can bring in that expertise and integrate it effectively and make it available across the community so that we can integrate that work into our daily work and effect, while also looking at the long term trends it produces.”

Senator King is also a forceful advocate for efforts to combat climate change due to the threats posed on the environment, public health, and national security. On April 29, 2021, he voted to reinstate key regulations of methane emissions from the oil and gas industry – the largest domestic source of this dangerous greenhouse gas, which traps 84 times more atmospheric heat than carbon dioxide.

The Senate voted 52 to 42 to pass a resolution of disapproval under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), rescinding last year’s Trump Administration rollback of critical methane regulations that weakened or completely eliminated requirements that oil and natural gas companies limit methane and volatile organic compound (VOC) emissions from their operations.

The resolution was led by Senators King, Martin Heinrich (D-N.M.), and Ed Markey (D-Mass.), and supported by a bipartisan group of senators including Senator Susan Collins (R-Maine).

Earlier, Senator King spoke on the Senate floor in support of the resolution. Additionally, Senator King a lead sponsor on a range of bills that encourage energy efficiency and research on clean energy technologies; such as the Battery and Critical Mineral Recycling Act, which aims to incentivize the recycling of rechargeable and electrochemical batteries needed to meet the United States’ growing clean energy needs and decrease dependence on critical mineral imports, and the Joint Long-Term Storage Act seeks to speed up deployment of long-duration energy storage technologies through strategic collaboration between federal agencies.