The Department of Homeland Security, which includes the U.S. Coast Guard, warned that as ice melts in Arctic Ocean, competition will increase for fish, minerals and other resources. Another report warned that tens of millions of people are likely to be displaced by 2050 because of climate change — including as many as 143 million people in South Asia, sub-Saharan Africa and Latin America.
The reports came as President Biden prepares to attend a major United Nations climate conference in Glasgow known as COP26. With his climate agenda stalled in Congress, Mr. Biden risks having little progress to tout in Glasgow, where the administration had hoped to re-establish United States leadership on addressing warming.
The reports “reinforce the President’s commitment to evidence-based decisions guided by the best available science and data,” the White House said Thursday, and “will serve as a foundation for our critical work on climate and security moving forward.”
The intelligence report identified 11 countries as being particularly vulnerable to the effects of climate change and particularly unable to cope with its effects. That list included four countries near the United States, among them Guatemala and Haiti; three countries with nuclear weapons (North Korea, Pakistan and India); and two countries,Afghanistan and Iraq, that the United States invaded in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks.
The scramble to respond to climate change could benefit other countries, intelligence agencies added, particularly those that become leaders in emerging renewable-energy technologies or the raw materials needed to produce them. China controls much of the world’s processing capacity for cobalt, lithium and other minerals needed for electric vehicle batteries, as well as rare earth minerals used in wind turbines and electric vehicle motors.
Other countries, like Norway and the United Kingdom, have an advantage in meeting the growing demand to remove carbon dioxide from the air, the report said, because of government policies — such as a price on carbon — that support the development of that technology.
Federal officials noted how climate change is melting Arctic ice, opening the Northwest Passage between the Atlantic and Pacific oceans and setting the stage for competition for resources and sea lanes for commercial shipping between Russia, China, Canada and the U.S., among others.
The Pentagon, which released a report of its own, said the military will begin to spend a significant portion of its budget to incorporate climate-related threats into its planning.
The Department of Defense faces numerous climate risks. Its bases are vulnerable to flooding, fires, drought and rising sea levels. Among myriad other examples, the Navy Base Coronado has experienced isolated and flash flooding during tropical storm events particularly in El Niño years, the Naval Air Station Key West was hit by severe drought several years ago and a wildfire in 2017 burned 380 acres on Vandenberg Air Force Base in Southern California. Droughts, fires and flooding can also interfere with the Pentagon’s ability to train its forces and test equipment.
Kayly Ober, the senior advocate and program manager for the Climate Displacement Program at Refugees International, called the report disappointing, more of a review of the challenges around climate migration than a set of prescriptions for how to address it. “It’s a huge missed opportunity,” Ms. Ober said. “I think the Biden administration hasn’t quite figured out what they want to do.”