Clapper: Climate change 'transcends' all other threats Biden should confront

'I would nominate that for first on this list of top risks,' Clapper says

Updated: December 17, 2020 - 10:55pm

Former Director of National Intelligence James Clapper warned that climate change outweighs all other threats that President-elect Joe Biden should confront in office.

Clapper was asked to describe "the risks" he thinks Biden should immediately take on after he's inaugurated. 

"The threat I would mention or challenge I would mention is, which I think actually transcends all others, is climate change and I guess I would nominate that for first on this list of top risks. And in my view, not to be melodramatic about it, but as the U.N. recently stated that, if we don't do something -- the goal is to do something about this pretty quick -- the planet's going to become an uninhabitable hell," Clapper said during a "Global Risks 2021" discussion hosted by the Atlantic Council.

"And that, to me, transcends all these other challenges and threats that we have. I mean, clearly, the Earth is warming at a faster rate than science had forecast and sea level is rising and you only need to look at the empirical evidence of that. And to me that, that transcends all else," he added.

As a presidential candidate, Biden promised he would rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. Clapper said the U.S. should try to engage China, specifically, on climate change.

"The opportunity here, of course, is to rejoin the Paris Climate Accord. And I've also offered that in terms of an opportunity that this may be an area where, with all the other disagreements we have in China, where we can work with China," Clapper said.

"A little known speech that President Xi made last September would indicate, if it's, you know, on the level, that China may have an interest in a renewed or kindled interest in attacking climate change, of course, and China has got to be a player there. There are others but I would certainly highlight that as a preeminent threat," he added,

Clapper acknowledged that the U.S. has disagreements with China in other areas but thinks there is potential for collaboration on climate change.

"Well, clearly, we're going to have disagreements with China. We certainly do, many, many disagreements, but I would just offer that the threat posed by climate change is perhaps an area where we could, that's one area where we can agree to work together," he said.