The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) is examining unclassified data sources to broaden its understanding of climate change – an issue that an NGA official says will become a primary focus of the agency going forward this week.
Dave Birchett, GEOINT Country Manager for Economics and Threat Finance at NGA, explained the agency’s scalable approach to studying climate change at a GEOConnect Series Main Stage event hosted by United States Geospatial Intelligence Foundation (USGIF). At the event, government experts discussed the essential role of the geospatial intelligence community (GEOINT) in future efforts against climate change.
GEOINT can help better monitor and understand climate change and provide well-integrated, accurate and timely data, technologies, human knowledge and methodologies to better predict crises and develop specific solutions to problems, officials said.
National security practitioners have described climate change as a “threat multiplier” and a catalyst for instability and conflict; climate change can lead to a crisis, requiring urgent and well-informed collaborative action. Essentially, this means that climate change can exacerbate other factors of insecurity, including factors such as water, food and energy insecurity. Many in the national security community have started to internalize that if you are concerned about global security, you must be concerned about the implications of a warming world.
“There are the direct impacts of global warming. The increasing frequency of severe storms, the implications for physical security and critical infrastructure, rising seas pose a literal existential threat to some countries. Even the heat is increasingly deadly on an alarming trajectory, ”explained Stephanie Epner, senior international climate policy adviser at the US State Department.
“But we should also be concerned from a security point of view,” she said. “This is a humanitarian crisis in the making and potentially worrying from a regional security perspective as well. None of these impacts are in the service of stability or security.
While GEOINT can understand and dissect the many facets of climate change, climate change and climate security are intersectional and non-linear topics, so all subsets of GEOINT need to be integrated with other intelligence disciplines to really understand climate security.
“The need for integration gets a little bigger and more complex as the data gets more precise, the models get more complex and the data gets more plentiful,” said Jordan Beauregard, senior environmental security advisor at the United States Geological Survey. (USGS).
On the data collection and analysis front, Birchett said the NGA has started to use “NASA ozone monitoring data that can be applied in different ways. For example, you can determine levels of general human activity, which can be used to determine the position of countries in terms of climate activity. He added: “This is an ongoing effort, and I think we are still learning and understanding how to make the most of the collective strengths of each partner.”
Additionally, Beauregard said that GEOINT and complex data analysis capabilities could help the intelligence community deal with these issues within various government and non-government organizations. However, a key obstacle is that many of these assets focus on domestic problem sets in the United States. But, according to Beauregard, if some of them could be devoted to understanding international problems, it becomes immediately and incredibly useful for the intelligence community to understand the facets of climate change.