The United Nations system's chief scientist on weather and climate cautioned on Friday that climate change has "a multitude of security impacts" and is becoming more widely regarded as a national security threat.
Pavel Kabat, chief scientist of the World Meteorological Organization, warned this week at the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland that climate change is erasing gains made in the global population's access to food, exacerbating the potential for wildfires and worsening air quality.
“The relationship between climate-related risks and conflict is complex and often intersects with political, social, economic and demographic factors,” Rosemary DiCarlo, U.N. under secretary-general for political and peacebuilding affairs, said.
"The risks associated with climate-related disasters do not represent a scenario of some distant future. They are already a reality for millions of people around the globe — and they are not going away.”
Acting U.S. ambassador to the U.N., Jonathan Cohen, did not mention the words "climate change" or "security" in his speech to the council, according to NBC News. Russia’s ambassador, Vassily Nebenzia, said the issue should only be taken up if it poses a risk to international peace.
More than 80 delegations spoke Friday, with nearly all except the U.S. acknowledging the effects of climate change, according to The Associated Press.
“While we are still busy trying to decide which form of the United Nations must address which aspect of climate change, our lakes are drying up, depriving fresh water to tens of millions of people. Unseasonal droughts are leaving millions of people homeless. Hunger and displacement are leading to conflicts, and entire nations are sinking under water,” Maldives Foreign Minister Abdulla Shahid said.
A Trump administration official said Friday that addressing climate change is a “priority” for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), but said it can rank behind other issues.
Bill Wehrum, the EPA’s assistant administrator for air, said the EPA is still trying to figure out climate change science and whether it is a “crisis,” among other scientific questions.