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Top U.S. Intelligence Analysts to Study Climate Change

By rob13     May 4, 2007 in Environment
The U.S. House of Representatives on Wednesday approved a provision allowing part of the budget for spy programs to be used for studying climate change.
The House Intelligence Committee will require the National Intelligence Council to produce a report that specifically deals with the issue of climate change, but the Democrats are looking for even more to be done.
The House is planning to start debate on this proposed bill next week. The bill being proposed states intelligence analysts must produce a report which looks at the political, social, agricultural and economic risks associated with climate change over the next 30 years.
The Republican minority in the House rejected this plan because they feel there are more pressing issues for the intelligence community to study besides climate change.
Ross Feinstein, spokesman for the Office of the National Intelligence Director, said the intelligence community has all ready begun a study of the implications of climate change as it relates to U.S. national security plans. Feinstein went on to say the intelligence community performs various studies and scenarios that involve national security, and this includes possible security issues surrounding global climate change.
Another intelligence community official said, under the blanket of anonymity, that he could not go into details on exactly what the intelligence community's current study regarding climate change revolves around because this is best left up to the scientists.
Among questions that some are asking: Will drought and weather changes create mass migrations that could threaten governments? Will U.S. military bases be affected by rising sea levels?
It is been long standing policy within the intelligence community to perform studies that involve the effects of social and environmental issues as they relate to the security of the U.S. These topics of research include issues such as scarce resources, disease, mass migrations and national disasters.
In 2002, there was a National Intelligence Estimate on the next wave of HIV/AIDS; in 2004, one on the geopolitics of energy.
But as with any issue, debate about how the intelligence agency should, or should not, be used in studying climate change and its possible effects on U.S. national security was split along party lines.
Rep. Peter Hoekstra, R-Mi, is the top ranking Republican on the House Intelligence Committee, and he feels the Democrats have their priorities in the wrong order on this issue. Mr. Hoekstra wonders whether having the intelligence community perform a study on climate change would divert much needed resources from other more pressing security issues. Mr. Hoekstra went on to say that Republicans would like to use the intelligence community to work on studying terrorists, rogue nations and U.S. enemies.
Rep. Darrell Issa, R-Calif, went even further by saying the U.S. should not be involved in 'environmental spying'. Mr. Issa said valuable spy satellites and human resources should not be used on something an undefined as climate change.
The chairman of the House Intelligence committee, Rep. Silvestre Reyes( D-Texas), does not feel the proposed bill is doing a disservice to the intelligence community. Mr. Reyes feels climate change is a serious issue that has a direct impact on U.S. security interest so this issue does fall within the scope of duties for the intelligence community.
One Democratic aide was allowed to speak on this issue, but only if his identity was kept a secret. This aide then went on to say most of the data for this study could be obtained from unclassified documents, open sources, and data all ready in the governments possession. This unidentified aide went on to say the debate on this issue surrounds a report from 11 top-ranking retired military officials who found that climate change does present a serious threat to national security that could raise global tensions and affect the U.S. and military operations.
Retired Army Gen. Gordon Sullivan, chairman of a military advisory board that drafted the report, said the review avoided politics by looking at the possible security implications of climate change, not examining the science behind it.
Gen. Sullivan said the believes there is a trend suggesting the U.S. should use scholarship which relates to national security so that we can better understand how implications of severe climate change will have on the security of the U.S.
The report prepared by Gen. Sullivan and his group reviewed how climate change could lead to social destabilization, the ability to have access to food and water, severe weather, rising sea levels, and other climate changes that may cause people to migrate to other areas of the world which could then lead to a rise in global tensions.
Gen. Sullivan concluded by saying that many countries which look stable today may be incapable of dealing with the stresses that climate change may bring, and this in turn may lead to extremism because of a governments inability to manage the changes brought by global climate changes.
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