The U.S. intelligence community needs an organization that can assess the impacts of climate change on U.S. national security interests in an open and collaborative manner, according to a new report from the Defense Science Board (DSB).
The Director of National Intelligence should establish a new intelligence group “to concentrate on the effects of climate change on political and economic developments and their implications for U.S. national security,” said the DSB report on “Trends and Implications of Climate Change for National and International Security” (large pdf).
The Central Intelligence Agency already has a Center on Climate Change and National Security. So why would the Intelligence Community need an entirely new organization to address the exact same set of issues?
One reason is that the role envisioned for the new organization is inconsistent with the practices of the CIA Center. So, for example, the new intelligence group would be expected to pursue cooperative relationships with others inside and outside of the U.S. government. It would also “report most of its products broadly within government and non-government communities,” the DSB report said.
But the CIA Center, by unspoken contrast, does not report any of its climate change products broadly or allow public access to them. (“At CIA, Climate Change is a Secret,” Secrecy News, September 22, 2011).
The CIA’s unyielding approach to classification effectively negates the ability of its Center on Climate Change to interact with non-governmental organizations and researchers on an unclassified basis. Since, as the DSB noted, much of the relevant expertise on climate change lies “outside the government [in] universities, the private sector, and NGOs,” the CIA’s blanket secrecy policy is a potentially disabling condition.
In fact, the DSB report said, the secretive approach favored by CIA is actually counterproductive.
“The most effective way to tackle understanding [climate change] may be to treat it, for the most part, as an open question, transparent to all engaged in its study,” the DSB report said. “Compartmentalizing climate change impact research can only hinder progress.”