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US spy chiefs warn of threat from climate crisis in annual report

Emergency ‘will continue to fuel disease outbreaks, threaten food and water security’, officials say

Louise Hall
Wednesday 14 April 2021 15:11 BST
Extinction Rebellion smash windows of Barclays Bank HQ

American intelligence agencies have warned that the United States and its allies will face “a diverse array of threats” in 2021 including “degradation” at home and abroad due to the climate crisis.

In an annual threat assessment, US spy chiefs said that the climate emergency “will continue to fuel disease outbreaks, threaten food and water security, and exacerbate political instability and humanitarian crises”.

The evaluation comes in an unclassified assessment prepared by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence (ODNI) for congressional hearings this week and released on Tuesday, Bloomberg reports.

In the assessment, the agency says that “scientists warn that warming air, land, and sea temperatures create more frequent and variable extreme weather events, including heatwaves, droughts, and floods”.

They note that these events could “directly threaten the United States and US interests” but note that “adaptation measures could help manage the impact of these threats”.

“The degradation and depletion of soil, water, and biodiversity resources almost certainly will threaten infrastructure, health, water, food, and security,” the report says.

The ODNI predicts that this will have a significant impact “in many developing countries that lack the capacity to adapt quickly to change, and increase the potential for conflict over competition for scarce natural resources”.

In regards to the pandemic, the document predicts that Covid-19 “will continue to strain governments and societies, fuelling humanitarian and economic crises, political unrest, and geopolitical competition”.

On foreign relations, officials warn of aggression by Russia, China and Iran shadowed by the coronavirus pandemic as they seek advantage through such avenues as ‘vaccine diplomacy’.

The 27-page declassified version of the assessment comes in advance of Senate and House hearings on Wednesday and Thursday.

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