“Perhaps I’m a case study for what happens in the federal government when we start on a tough problem,” says Alice Hill, the senior director for resilience policy and the National Security Council and former senior counselor to the secretary of homeland security, in this week’s podcast.
In 2009, President Obama issued an executive order requiring all agencies to conduct climate change adaptation and environmental sustainability planning. “We turned very seriously to the question, ‘should an agency like DHS even care about climate change?’” says Hill, who was also a judge before joining the government. “In 2009 that was a serious question. We did not have a definite, consensus view within the department.”
“We had the hard work of answering that question and looking at all of our mission spaces to determine that, in fact, we should care deeply,” she says. “That threat multiplier of climate change could knock aside all of the important work – or much of the important work – that we are doing.”
Once the threat was recognized, determining a plan of action proved just as difficult. “What do you do about it? How do you start really making choices that will make a difference to better prepare a nation, a fragile state, or even the United States to the impacts of climate change?” she asks. “This is new territory for many people across the federal government.”
Since 2009, Hill has moved on to the White House where she helps coordinate responses to climate change across the U.S. government. The security community has increasingly emphasized the potential risks of climate change in strategy and planning documents. Hill references the 2010 and 2015 National Security Strategies, the Quadrennial Defense Report, and the Quadrennial Homeland Security Report for example, which call climate change a “threat multiplier.”
Women in the region suffer disproportionately from climate impacts, but they also play an essential role in addressing climate change. With the right policy responses, it is possible to reduce security risks and empower women to better address the challenges they face.
The impact of climate change is posing a growing threat to peace and security. Germany is therefore putting climate and security on the Security Council’s agenda.
Russia’s economic development minister warned last week that the EU’s plans to deploy a carbon tax at the bloc’s borders will not be in line with World Trade Organisation (WTO) rules, just as Brussels doubled down on the idea of green tariffs.
The pandemic and racial justice protests call for justice and crisis preparedness – an opportunity also to act on climate change. Successfully taking advantage of this momentum, however, requires a climate strategy that ensures everyone has a voice and a stake. Here, Paul Joffe builds on a previous correspondence about how to begin that effort in this time of crisis.