President Obama's Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security

Press Statement
John Kerry
Secretary of State
Washington, DC
September 21, 2016

I have been focused on climate change for decades – not just because I’m a proud environmentalist, but because scientists have been crystal clear that climate change is likely to have significant security implications over the world, including in the United States.

As Secretary of State, I have seen and heard firsthand how it is already beginning to have an effect on security and stability.

President Obama has understood this from the start, doing more than any president in history to address this global challenge.

Today he built on the progress his administration has made by signing a Presidential Memorandum on Climate Change and National Security, establishing a framework for federal agencies to collaborate to ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policies, and plans.

As the recent report from the U.S. National Intelligence Council underscores, the nation’s intelligence community has found that climate change impacts are likely to present “wide-ranging national security challenges for the United States and other countries over the next 20 years.” We’re already beginning to see the devastating effects of weather-related disasters, drought, famine, and damaged infrastructure on communities around the world.

Add to that an increased risk of conflict over water and land, and the large-scale displacement due to rising sea levels, and it’s not hard to see why the Pentagon has deemed climate change a "threat-multiplier," exacerbating the pressures and challenges far too many countries are already facing.

We’ve already begun to take critical steps at the State Department.

Last fall I launched a task force of officials from across the State Department to ensure that foreign policy planning and priorities take climate impacts into account and proactively work to address them.

This task force is building out an implementation plan based on its examination of how we can better integrate climate resilience into international development, consider a strategic response to the contribution of climate change to migration, and coordinate U.S. engagement with international responses to climate security issues.

There’s no question: Climate change is one of the most concerning challenges facing the world today, and, together with our partners throughout the Obama Administration, the State Department will continue to ensure it receives the attention and the action it warrants.