Sens. Richard Durbin, D-Ill., and Chuck Hagel, R-Neb., Wednesday introduced legislation that would "require a National Intelligence Estimate to assess the security challenges presented by the world's changing climate," according to a statement from their offices.
National Intelligence Estimates, or NIEs, represent the best information and thinking of the 16 U.S. intelligence agencies, distilled by their analysts into a series of key judgments about national security threats and other issues.
The legislation will also fund additional research by the Department of Defense in order to examine the impact of climate change on military operations.
"For years, too many of us have viewed global warming as simply an environmental or economic issue. We now need to consider it as a security concern," said Durbin.
"Many of the most severe effects of global warming are expected in regions where fragile governments are least capable of responding to them," he said, adding the NIE "will guide policymakers in protecting our national security and averting potential international crises."
Hagel said it was essential to address "the issue of climate change with a national strategy that incorporates economic, environmental and energy priorities."
The Global Climate Change Security Oversight bill calls for "a strategic estimate of the risks posed by global climate change for countries or regions that are of particular economic or military significance to the United States or that are at serious risk of humanitarian suffering," according to the statement, adding it will "assess the political, social, agricultural, and economic challenges for countries and their likely impact" over the next 30 years.
"Environmental changes caused by global warming represent a potential threat multiplier for instability around the world. Scarce water, for example, may exacerbate conflict along economic, ethnic, or sectarian divisions. Water shortages, food insecurity, or flooding -- all of which may occur as a result of rising global temperatures -- could also displace people, forcing them to migrate," the statement said.