North Korea wants to nuke us; ISIS wants to kill us; Mexican drug lords want to addict us; China spies on us, Iran hates us, and Russia interferes in our elections. Those are just a few of the "global threats" outlined by Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats at a hearing of the Senate Armed Services Committee.
And then there's "climate change," a prime concern of Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who raised the issue with Coats at Tuesday's hearing on "global threats."
"The science is unmistakable. Human activities are releasing greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and contributing to climate change," Warren stated.
"A Defense Department report from two years ago observed, 'Global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions,’ she quoted.
“In short, this DOD report describes climate change as a threat multiplier. Director Coats, do you agree?" Warren asked.
"I don't know if I would describe it as a threat multiplier," Coats responded, noting that his job is to assess the consequences of potential changes in climate as they impact migration and humanitarian issues. He said the science of climate change falls to other federal agencies.
“I think there have always, in the history of the world, been reactions to different climate changes, and this is an issue that continues,” Coats said.
Warren noted again that Defense Department has concluded that climate change exacerbates existing problems: “Do you disagree with any of that?” she asked Coats.
“No I don't disagree,” Coats responded. “I'm simply saying that I think that has been an ongoing issue -- throughout the -- throughout the ages.”
“Well, let me ask the question this way then,” Warren said. “How should we be integrating climate change risks into our national security strategy?”
Coats, haltingly, said: "We should be assessing … the consequences of changes that are relevant to security issues. That should be part of the assessment, and it is.”
“Well,” said a frustrated Warren, “climate change is clearly a threat to international peace and security, and I just think it's critically important that we take this seriously and we adapt accordingly.”