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DHS official warns climate migration could overwhelm U.S. borders,  Coast Guard

Tiffany Stecker, E&E reporter
Published: Thursday, November 3, 2011

Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano's senior counselor warned yesterday that the consequences of a changing climate will undoubtedly affect security on American soil.

"It's going to aggravate poverty, environmental degradation and social tensions resulting in conditions that could enable terrorist activity, violence and mass migration," said Alice Hill, speaking on a panel on national security at the second annual GreenGov symposium.

"We just have to imagine an unstable nation with massive flooding, what that would mean for the United States if that was a nation that fostered terrorists," she said.

Last year, Napolitano announced the creation of a climate change task force that found global warming would propel "higher than normal levels of migration," said Hill, with potentially serious effects on border infrastructure and employees.

Search-and-rescue operations, the health of border personnel, power storage and cybersecurity are other concerns for the agency.

Compared to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security has been relatively slow to formulate a plan to adapt to and mitigate climate change. The department, created in response to the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, is one of the youngest Cabinet agencies in the federal government. It is also one of the largest, with 216,000 employees.

While the Navy, Army and other armed forces have grown accustomed to speaking about melting Arctic waters, energy security and updating infrastructure, Homeland Security is still working to effectively communicate the basics. Its first priority is educating its staff on the impacts.

To date, the understanding of climate change has boiled down to "I don't know why, but there's more water," said Hill, quoting retired Coast Guard Adm. Thad Allen.

"There is still a resistance to understanding what climate change means for any agency," she said. "In order to be wise policymakers, we need to make sure that we address these issues."

In 2009, the agency released its Quadrennial Review, in which it recognized that climate change was important and should be addressed, said Hill. Homeland Security is developing a road map to address climate change, expected to be released in June.

"We're not deciding the science here," she said. "We're simply planning for what the scientists tell us is a likely [outcome]."

Reprinted from ClimateWire with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500


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Reprinted from climatewire-10-31_11-11 with permission from Environment & Energy Publishing, LLC. 202-628-6500.

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