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Joint Hearing of the Intelligence Community Management Subcommittee of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming - National Security Implications of Global Climate Change


Location: Washington, DC

Ladies and gentlemen, thank you all so much for being here at a joint hearing of the Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming and the Select Committee on Intelligence and the Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management. I want to thank Chairman Reyes and Chairwoman Eshoo, Ranking Member Issa and the rest of the members of the Subcommittee on Intelligence Community Management for joining us today for this important hearing, and Mr. Sensenbrenner, the ranking member of the Select Committee on Global Warming and our members as well.

We find ourselves at a critical moment in history. The impacts of our altered atmosphere from the burning of fossil fuels are beginning to manifest themselves in the United States and around the world. Our response to this challenge can be to either unleash a technological revolution that will enhance our national, economic, and environmental security or to burden the planet with climactic catastrophe.

Whether it is floods in Iowa, cyclones in Burma, or drought, starvation, and genocide in Darfur, we know that environmental threats underpin many global conflicts and crises and that global warming will only make matters worse and that human beings all over the planet face death or famine or injury if we do not act.

The select committee's very first hearing focused on the geopolitical implications of our nation's dependence on oil and the impacts of global warming. That inaugural hearing occurred in the same week that the U.N. Security Council held its first ever discussion on the implications of global warming for international peace and security and the same week that 11 retired top U.S. military leaders and the Center for Naval Analysis issued the report "National Security and the Threat of Climate Change."

We are honored to have two key participants in those efforts with us today: the honorable Margaret Beckett, the former foreign secretary of the United Kingdom, and Vice Admiral Paul Gaffney. One of the key recommendations of the CNA report was for the intelligence community to incorporate the consequences of climate change into a national intelligence estimate.

After that first select committee hearing, I introduced legislation requiring such an analysis. Through the hard work of Chairwoman Eshoo and her colleagues on the House Intelligence Committee, some of the language was included on the House Intelligence Authorization Bill last year. The Director of National Intelligence has since responded with the "National Intelligence Assessment," finalized earlier this month, and which informs much of today's hearing.

Unfortunately, the NIA is classified and therefore the public cannot benefit from the excellent analysis that the intelligence community has brought together in this report, but make no mistake, this first-ever high-level intelligence community study of global warming which calls the climate crisis a threat to American security is a clarion call to action from the heart of our nation's security establishment. I understand the reasoning behind the decision of the Nation Intelligence Council to classify the specific regional security impacts of global warming in this NIA, but I am reserving my judgment as to whether that is the right choice.

The science is conclusive. We know that global warming is occurring today and we know that severe security consequences will result. I believe that our goal must be to martial the political will to halt and rollback global warming and save the planet from this disaster. The intelligence community is hesitant to tell the world who will be affected, what might happen, and where the greatest security risk will occur, but that's exactly what we need. If people know specifically what those severe security problems will be and where they will be and who they will affect then perhaps we will finally have enough political will both in this country and internationally to do the hard work of solving the climate crisis.

After seven years of ignoring the problem, the Bush administration continues to limit what their experts can communicate to the public on this critical issue. Whether it is the Environmental Protection Agency or the National Intelligence Council that is sounding the alarm, whether it is a danger to the public or a danger to national security, the president doesn't America to know the real risk of global warming.


In your testimony, you conclude that global warming will multiply existing problems internationally including social tension, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, weak political institutions, poverty, scarcity of resources, and large scale migration. That, to me, sounds like a laundry list of the underlying causes of terrorism. Could global warming worsen the very problems that are underlying and driving the terrorism problem today?

DR. FINGAR: First of all, thank you for the positive comments on the National Intelligence Assessment. I will certainly pass them to the people that did most of the heavy lifting on this project.

The summary of conditions that you provided and that is in our statement is very similar to the list of conditions and preconditions for alienation that appear to be at work in some cases of recruitment into terrorist activity so I think logic suggests that the conditions exacerbated by the effects of climate change could increase the pool of potential recruits into terrorist activity.

REP. MARKEY: And from your perspective, is this additional contribution to terrorism something the United States should be concerned about and take action to prevent?

DR. FINGAR: We should certainly be concerned about any factors, any instance, any areas in which recruitment of people to terrorist activity is occurring. So my short answer would be, yes.

REP. MARKEY: As you look at Somalia and Darfur, do you believe that those were areas where this didn't actually contribute to the rise in tension amongst different groups and as a result, increase the national security concerns of the United States?

DR. FINGAR: If you're drawing the linkage from drought, here, as a climate-change exacerbated factor, a drought is certainly one of the factors in the unstable situation in Sudan, in Darfur, but only one of those. The clashes that are partly religious, partly ethnic, partly economic, partly the strivings of people for the ability to live in a very difficult situation all are a factor in creating a terrible humanitarian situation.

To my knowledge, we have not had instances of large-scale recruitment or attempts to recruit for terrorist activity out of this particular population.

REP. MARKEY: You mentioned that the intelligence community has done very little work on assessing the implications of climate mitigation strategies whether they are carbon capture and sequestration, renewables, biofuels, or nuclear. I really don't understand the conclusion drawn on page seven of your testimony that, quote, "efforts to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with climate change may affect U.S. national security interests even more than the physical impacts of climate change itself."

If we haven't analyzed mitigation strategies yet, where does the conclusion that doing the work to avoid global warming would be even worse than global warming itself? Is that sentence from page seven in the classified National Intelligence Assessment? Or was it added to your testimony at some later point?

DR. FINGAR: No, it is a part of the reason that we have a planned follow-on studies to look at mitigation effects. The operative word is that is "may." We don't know. We don't know what affects efforts to expand nuclear power will have on proliferation possibilities. We don't know what effect mitigation efforts in one country may have on conditions in a second or a third country that -- For example, mitigation effects in India that could effect, perhaps, adversely conditions in Pakistan. So that's the reason the sentence is there. We think it is important to take proposed remediation activities and look at them so that we can provide judgments that we cannot make at this time.

REP. MARKEY: But if we read that conclusion on page seven, you get a totally flawed and false view of what the NIA, which is a hugely important document, actually concluded. I've seen the classified document and this idea that our attempts to avoid global warming could be more damaging to U.S. national security than global warming itself is simply not there. We've seen this administration politicize intelligence before and it looks like they have done it here again -- not you, sir, of course -- by inserting in your testimony, this statement that is simply not supported by the intelligence and which is, in fact, completely misleading.

Clearly, we need NIA declassified in full so that it can be read and debated without being filtered through the White House. This White House wants to debate how we should address and mitigate the climate crisis. We welcome that debate because it's the White House, not the Congress that wants to send nuclear power reactors to Saudi Arabia, in the most unstable region in the world in the name of global warming. There will, I guarantee you, be a severe security implication to this country in the form of uncontrolled nuclear proliferation from that absurd policy.

So I think it's important for us to have it out on the table if sending nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia is the administration's argument that they're making in a climate-change context. Again, I thank all of you at the table for --

DR. FINGAR: If I may respond, briefly, Mr. Chairman, for the record, to note that the White House had no involvement in the production of either the National Intelligence Assessment or the statement for the record other than the statement for the record were the normal OMB review process. This is the judgment of the intelligence community.

REP. MARKEY: Did OMB ask for any changes in the language of your testimony?

DR. FINGAR: Not in that portion of it.


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