Spies spooked by climate change

Anxious about climate change? So is Canada’s top spy agency.

What happened: A newly published analysis shows that the Canadian Security Intelligence Service (CSIS) views climate change as “a complex, long-term threat” to the country.

  • The briefing dates from April of 2021 but was just released in response to an Access to Information request.

Why it matters: CSIS doesn’t do meteorology; it’s a national security agency, and its analysis reflects concerns about the impact of climate change on Canada beyond rising sea levels and extreme weather.

  • The opening of the Northwest Passage will expose oil and mineral deposits, leading to competition for access with China and Russia that could spark conflict.

  • CSIS also expects a rise in violent extremism among groups angry about the government’s response to climate change—both those who think it’s too slow and those who think it’s too disruptive to their way of life.

Zoom out: Climate change is also likely to make Canada an appealing destination for people negatively impacted by climate change around the world, thanks to its stable government, vast tracts of habitable land, and plentiful freshwater, which CSIS says could become “one of the world’s most vital and contested resources.”

What’s next: “There will be no single moment where this threat will crystallize and reveal itself,” the report says, but there’s a lot the government can do to prepare for what’s coming, from securing infrastructure to helping farmers plan for changing weather conditions.