Paul Weisenfeld

RTI’s Top International Development Executive Testifies Before U.S. House of Representatives on National Security Impact of Climate Change

April 02, 2019

WASHINGTON D.C. Paul Weisenfeld, executive vice president for international development at RTI International, a non-profit research and international development institute, testified today before the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Foreign Affairs at a hearing examining how climate change threatens U.S. national security.

As part of a panel with three additional experts, Weisenfeld testified that the impacts of climate change intensify challenges in low-and middle-income countries, threatening their stability and security and demonstrating the importance of U.S. foreign assistance as a national security tool.

“Extreme and unreliable weather patterns can have negative impacts on food and water security, putting vulnerable communities around the world at risk,” Weisenfeld said. “U.S. foreign assistance programming strengthens countries’ and communities’ resilience in the face of food and water insecurity, bolsters their self-reliance, and fosters stability and security.”  

Weisenfeld drew upon his extensive experience overseeing international development efforts focused on agriculture, the environment, global health, and more as a senior leader at the U.S. Agency for International Development (USAID) and his current experience leading RTI’s international development practice.

Key points Weisenfeld made as he described an increasingly vulnerable world included:

  • Recent gains achieved in global food security are now at risk. Global food and nutrition insecurity have increased in recent years.
  • Among other factors, the impacts of climate change contribute to food, water, and other crises that have the potential to undermine and enflame fragile social, economic and security conditions.
  • Water scarcity and insecurity is making it more difficult to meet the demand for water for agriculture, energy generation, and more. Some regions could see a decline in economic growth due to decreasing water supplies.
  • Climate-related factors such as temperature, rainfall patterns and pests can contribute to lower agricultural productivity, a major source of economic activity in the developing world.

Weisenfeld also provided examples of opportunities for promoting resilience to these threats, including from research and work conducted by RTI. “At RTI, we partner with communities and countries to increase their resilience against the negative effects of climate variability and other threats,” said Weisenfeld.

For example, as part of a USAID-funded program in Somalia, RTI is implementing an innovative camel leasing model in response to recent droughts that helps farmers protect their livestock and incomes from climate-related threats.

As part of another USAID-funded program in the Philippines, RTI developed water resource maps for the conflict-prone island of Mindanao. This program revealed that the regions’ top agricultural exports—all of which are water intensive—were being planted in water-stressed areas. We provided suggestions for improving water management, protecting livelihoods in the face of climate-related risks.

Weisenfeld summarized his remarks saying, “when the United States invests in development, we’re investing in security.”

A copy of Weisenfeld’s submitted testimony is available here. The testimony itself can be viewed on YouTube.