Obama Advisor: Climate Change One of 'Top Strategic Risks' to U.S.

By Ali Meyer | March 20, 2015 | 3:07 PM EDT

A passenger airliner and birds fly past a coal-fired power plant in Beijing, China Thursday, Nov. 13, 2014. (AP Photo/Andy Wong)

(CNSNews.com) - A top adviser to President Obama and member of National Security Council Staff, Alice Hill said that climate change is “one of eight top strategic risks to United States’ interests” along with risks like the “proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” during a speech at the Georgetown University Law Center’s discussion on national security and climate change in Washington, D.C., on Friday.

“Today I want to speak to you about the national security risks posed by a changing climate, the impacts we are already observing both internationally and domestically, and what's predicted to come,” said Hill. “I also want to briefly share with you the work that President Obama’s administration has undertaken to address these security challenges. I work on the National Security Council staff. Let me be clear. The changes to our environment are a matter of national security.”

Hill is the senior director for resilience policy on National Security Council staff and she serves as the principal advisor on preparedness and resilience issues arising from climate change. She also provided advice and counsel on the President Obama’s Climate Action Plan.

“Just last month the administration issued its 2015 national security strategy,” Hill added. “The strategy stated, and I quote, “climate change is an urgent and growing threat contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows and conflicts over basic resources like food and water.”

“The strategy includes climate change as one of eight top strategic risks to United States interests along with other risks such as a catastrophic attack on U.S. soil, threats or attacks against citizens abroad, and the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction,” she said.

“Now also as Vicki has noted, national security extends well beyond protecting the homeland against armed attacks by other states and indeed beyond threats from people who purposely seek to damage or destroy states. Phenomena like pandemic disease and natural disasters, despite lacking human intentionality, can threaten national security. Climate change threatens national security,” Hill added.

Hill also explained that continuing on our current trajectory of emissions would risk our global and regional food security.

“In 2014, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, also known as the IPCC, issued a number of assessment reports, also consensus reports,” explained Hill. “One of those - the report on impacts, adaptation and vulnerability looked at future risks to the globe.

“It concluded that if we continue on our current trajectory of emissions, we are at high risk for severe and widespread impacts on unique and threatened systems, large risks to global and regional food security, compromise normal human activity due to the combination of high temperatures and humidity and one particularly stunning conclusion for those of us as we think about future generations. A large fraction of species face extinction risk,” she added.

“The IPCC and the national climate assessment found that climate change pose systemic risk due to extreme weather events, which could lead to breakdown of infrastructure, networks and critical services such as electricity, health and emergency services.”

“Last year, the administration released its third national climate assessment,” said Hill. “That’s a consensus document of about 300 scientists - all who have advanced degrees in climate science. That document unequivocally states that, ‘climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future has moved firmly into the present.’

“It also makes clear that America will not be spared,” said Hill. “Indeed, the effects of climate change are already being felt from the arctic, as I indicated, to the midwest. Climate change brings with it significant consequences. Let me read to you a few of the major findings from the third national climate assessment. That document found, ‘climate change threatens human health and well-being.’

“Infrastructure is being damaged by sea level rise, heavy downpours and extreme heat. Damages are projected to increase with continued climate change. Water quality and water supply resilience are jeopardized, and climate disruptions to agriculture have been increasing and are projected to become more severe in this century. We also know that climate change will affect virtually every country on earth. It is after all global climate change,” she said.

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