By Ariana Cepulis and Lukas Lehmann
Until three weeks ago, Dr. Rod Schoonover was a Senior Analyst in the Bureau of Intelligence and Research at the US Department of State.
In his position at the State Department, Dr. Schoonover was responsible for analyzing potential national security risks posed by climate change. In early June, Dr. Schoonover prepared written testimony on the security implications of climate change for the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, only to have his testimony blocked from reaching Congress by the White House because it did not align with the administration’s views on climate science. At the last minute, Dr. Schoonover was given clearance to give a five minute summary of the testimony, but the testimony was never entered into the official record.
Shortly thereafter, Dr. Schoonover chose to resign.
Which brings us to last Tuesday afternoon when Dr. Schoonover spoke for the first time since his resignation at the World Resources Institute regarding his departure from civil service and the consequences that omission of his testimony will have on the integrity of the intelligence community.
When asked about the national security implications of the politicization of the basic fact of climate change, Dr. Schoonover responded, “Our national security rests on scientific integrity. When we weaken our scientific base, we weaken our information base.”
As is becoming increasingly clear, climate change has far greater and more alarming political and economic consequences than just the increasing regularity of extreme weather events. Shifts in weather patterns fundamentally alter the ecological systems in the biosphere that have shaped our societies and our world economies. For instance, if temperatures continue to rise, we will not just experience more heat waves and witness sea levels rise as the ice caps melt; the impact will be felt through the depletion of fisheries, the spread of disease carrying organisms, and changes in agriculture. As such, Dr. Schoonover advocates for “broadening out from a weather centric aperture” and instead recognizing the deep socioeconomic consequences of a changing climate. It is as a result of these fundamental political and economic repercussions that climate change is a national security issue.
Nevertheless, Dr. Schoonover seemed optimistic regarding the recent advancements of climate science and its increasing ability to effectively convey the heightened likelihood of extreme weather events that we are experiencing due to climate change.
When asked if the US was prepared for the threat of climate change, Dr. Schoonover replied, “Arguably, no country is ready for the full slate of climate-related risks.”
Well, it’s time to get ready.