It was hard to tell which environmental adviser was representing which presidential candidate at a recent news conference
sponsored by SEJ
on climate change (watch
)—all three explicitly named it a security priority, and called for a mandatory cap and trade program and the development of new technology. (The question of whether to build new nuclear power plants revealed the only major difference: Clinton’s generally con, McCain is pro, and Obama falls somewhere in the middle.)
Clinton adviser and WilmerHale partner Todd Stern charged out of the gate first, deeming climate a “first-order national security issue” that is “going to exacerbate food security problems. It’s going to exacerbate water scarcity. It’s going to make desertification worse, increase resource competition, and produce, undoubtedly, large-scale migration and refugee problems and increase border tension.” Citing the CNA report, he called climate change a “threat multiplier for instability in volatile parts of the world.” He also quoted Sir Nicholas Stern’s claim that climate change has the potential to cause “economic disruption at a scale of the Great Depression and the wars of the last century.” Clinton will establish a National Energy Council (à la the National Security Council), form an “E8” of major emitters, and increase R&D; efforts—including creating a government agency for energy R&D; modeled on the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA). No proposals, however, on how to mitigate the existing impacts on our current security situation.
Quoting McCain, former CIA Director Jim Woolsey said climate change was “a serious and urgent economic, environmental, and national security challenge.” Taking a harder security stance, Woolsey linked U.S. oil dependence to terrorism not only because it increases “our vulnerability to cutoffs, to terrorist attacks in Middle East” on energy infrastructure, but also because oil fuels oil fuels “Saudi Arabia’s spreading of its hateful Wahhabi doctrine, into madrasas and religious schools around the world”—and funds Iran’s belligerence as well. Unlike Clinton’s representative, Woolsey did not focus on environmental degradation’s links to conflict. He supports market-based incentives to encourage the commercialization of existing technologies—such as plug-in hybrids, flex fuel vehicles, new lighter car body construction, alternative liquid fuels—that could end the “oil monopoly on transportation” and thus fight terrorism at same time. Somewhat cynically, he promoted this vastly oversimplified argument as a politically practical way to convince climate change skeptics to back mitigation efforts.
Like his boss, Obama’s representative Jason Grumet took a big-picture approach, telling the crowd that Obama “gets it”; he recognizes that energy “affects our national security in a dramatic way” and thus requires “dramatic change”—a fundamental transformation of our energy policies to “make us safe and secure.” However, he offered few specific details. Obama supports the development of clean coal (he’s from Illinois, putative site of the now-stalled FutureGen project) and advanced nuclear power, but says we must solve the existing problems with nuclear technology before beginning new development.