The Trump administration dropped climate change from the list of national security threats contained in a new report, reversing what had been a key component of its predecessor's argument for reducing carbon emissions, promoting clean energy and other environmental regulations.
The National Security Strategy focuses on securing the nation's border, combating international cybersecurity threats and promoting economic security. "This strategy recognizes that, whether we like it or not, we are engaged in a new era of competition," Trump said in a Dec. 18 speech in Washington, D.C.
The phrase "climate change" does not appear in the report, but the strategy does mention climate issues in the context of promoting the nation's energy dominance.
"Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system," the report said. "U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests."
Former President Barack Obama's national security strategy in 2015 described climate change as an "urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water." While the George W. Bush administration's national security strategy in 2006 did not reference climate change as a threat, the military during the Bush administration in 2008 warned about climate change security risks.
President Donald Trump has called climate change a hoax perpetrated by the Chinese, and today's report marks the newest iteration of the Trump administration's efforts to roll back many of the Obama administration's regulations and other initiatives related to climate change. Trump previously indicated he will withdraw the U.S. from the Paris Agreement on climate change.
The president in his speech on the report claimed the U.S. already has pulled out from "the very expensive and unfair Paris Climate Accord." The U.S., in fact, cannot fully withdraw from the agreement until 2020.
The report said the U.S. will "advance an approach that balances energy security, economic development, and environmental protection." The country also "will remain a global leader in reducing traditional pollution, as well as greenhouse gases, while expanding our economy. This achievement, which can serve as a model to other countries, flows from innovation, technology breakthroughs, and energy efficiency gains, not from onerous regulation," according to the strategy document.
In the past, the Trump administration has sent mixed signals on climate change risks, but the president in his speech said the report is supported by his entire cabinet. In written congressional testimony first reported by ProPublica, Defense Secretary James Mattis earlier in 2017 said climate change is impacting national security. "The effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation," Mattis said. But Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in testimony at his January confirmation hearing before the Senate Foreign Relations Committee said he did not see climate change as an imminent national security threat.
Environmental groups, including the Sierra Club, criticized the new report, noting that Trump recently signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which contained language listing climate change as a threat.
"Trump is not just ignoring science and public opinion about the dangers of the climate crisis, he's ignoring American generals and the Pentagon about what it takes to keep our military and our country safe," Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune said in a statement. "If we want to keep our country safe, Trump should take military advice from the military, not fossil fuel executives who are pushing to deny climate science and boost their profits at any cost."