Support Grows for Integrating Environment, Energy, Economy, Security in U.S. GovernmentNovember 5, 2008 By Rachel WeisshaarA new presidential administration always gives rise to a certain amount of bureaucratic restructuring. But for months now, momentum has been building behind the notion that governments need to improve the integration of their environmental, energy, economic, and security policies. Last month, Edward Miliband was named head of the UK government’s new department of energy and climate change. Last week, Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper tapped former industry minister Jim Prentice to lead a new ministry of environment, economy, and energy security. “I think that, as more and more countries are coming to realize, we cannot separate environmental and economic policy,” said Harper.
Yesterday, Grist’s David Roberts, noting that responsibility for addressing climate change is currently spread among the departments of State, Defense, Interior, Agriculture, Housing and Urban Development, Transportation, and Energy, offered several possibilities for restructuring the U.S. government to improve its ability to address climate change and energy, including creating a cabinet-level Secretary of Climate; expanding and empowering the Department of Energy or the Environmental Protection Agency; or—my favorite—appointing “some kind of czar,” because “[e]verybody loves a czar.”
Initiatives linking these challenges are popping up in Congress, universities, and the military. Senator Ken Salazar (D-CO) frequently speaks of the interrelated challenges of energy, environment, security, and economic growth “[O]ur addiction to foreign oil is a threat to our economic security, environmental security, and national security,” he said last year. The University of Colorado Law School recently established the Center for Energy and Environmental Security, which develops practical solutions to help move the world toward a sustainable energy future. In addition, the 2008 National Defense Strategy explicitly links energy, environment, and security: “Over the next twenty years physical pressures—population, resource, energy, climatic and environmental—could combine with rapid social, cultural, technological and geopolitical change to create greater uncertainty.”
A few small-scale initiatives to integrate environmental, economic, energy, and security policies within the U.S. government already exist. Yesterday, Carol Dumaine, deputy director for energy and environmental security at the Department of Energy, delivered a talk at the Harvard University Center for the Environment where she discussed a fledgling project to use unclassified data and a global network of experts in government, industry, and NGOs to identify interrelated environmental and energy security threats. Dumaine presented on the same project at a September 2008 conference on open-source intelligence sponsored by the Office of the Director of National Intelligence. It remains to be seen whether the Obama administration will continue this and other ongoing projects, or instead launch new projects of its own on these issues.