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Intelligence director Haines says climate change 'at the center' of national security

The Hill logo The Hill 4/23/2021 Mychael Schnell
Avril Haines posing for the camera: Intelligence director Haines says climate change 'at the center' of national security © Getty Images Intelligence director Haines says climate change 'at the center' of national security

Director of National Intelligence (DNI) Avril Haines on Thursday said that climate change must be "at the center" of countries' national security and foreign policy to address the issue properly.

Haines's comments came during remarks she delivered at the first day of the White House virtual climate summit on Earth Day. The two-day event brings together 40 world leaders including those from Germany, the U.K. and Japan to discuss climate change.

"To address climate change properly, it must be at the center of a country's national security and foreign policy, and as such it needs to be fully integrated with every aspect of our analysis in order to allow us not only to monitor the threat but also critically think to ensure that policymakers understand the implication of climate change on seemingly unrelated policies, and then identifying opportunities to mitigate the challenge that we face," Haines said.

Haines also recognized the importance of global leaders working together to battle climate change, saying that it "knows no boundaries, respects no national borders" and cannot be addressed by "any one nation on its own."

"We must work together on the challenge before us," Haines said.

The remarks from Haines echo those made by U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin during the White House climate summit the same day.

During his remarks, Austin stated that climate change posed an "existential threat" to the globe, and that the Pentagon would do its part to alleviate it.

Haines stated that the U.S. intends "to make this a whole of government effort, working not just to protect national security for America but to protect human security around the world with all of you."

The DNI said that leaders should think about "the role that their intelligence communities can play in addressing the global challenge that we face."

"For the intelligence community climate change is both a near term and a long term threat that will define the next generation," she continued.

The U.S. Intelligence director also recognized that the effect of climate change over the next two decades will "not be evenly distributed."

The effects will disproportionately fall on poor and vulnerable populations "intersecting with environmental degradation to create new vulnerabilities and exacerbating existing risks to economic prosperity, political stability, military readiness, food, water, health and energy security," she stated.

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