Senator John Kerry, chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, scheduled last week’s hearing on climate’s security links in a bid to bolster support for congressional action on climate change, which is currently stalled in the Senate. “Just as 9/11 taught us the painful lesson that oceans could not protect us from terror, today we are deluding ourselves if we believe that climate change will stop at our borders,” he said.
Former Senator John Warner echoed this sentiment, noting that the hearing was an opportunity to “educate the American public on these potential risks to our national security posed by global climate change.”
“Leading military, intelligence, and security experts have publically spoken out that if left unchecked, global warming could increase instability and lead to conflict in already fragile regions of the world. If we ignore these facts, we do so at the peril of our national security and increase the risk to those in uniform who serve our nation,” stated Warner, who recently launched the Pew Project on National Security, Energy, and Climate with the Pew Environment Group.
Pentagon Looks to Reduce Reliance on Oil and Drive Innovation
Burke explained that the phenomenon will not only pose “direct threats to the lives and property of Americans” from wildfires, droughts, flooding, severe storms, the spread of diseases, and mass migrations, but will also have “direct effects on the military,” including problems with infrastructure and the supply chain.
According to Leber, two-thirds of the tonnage in Iraq convoys was fuel and water. To mitigate such vulnerability in the future—not to mention in arid, mountainous Afghanistan—DoD has begun testing ways to turn waste into energy, distribute power through “microgrids,” develop jet fuel from algae, desalinate water using little energy, and purify wastewater on a small scale.
Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, USN (Ret.), a member of the CNA’s Military Advisory Board, dismissed the argument that climate data and projections are too uncertain to form a solid basis for action. “As military professionals,” he told the Senate committee, “we were trained to make decisions in situations defined by ambiguous information and little concrete knowledge of the enemy intent. We based our decisions on trends, experience, and judgment, because waiting for 100% certainty during a crisis can be disastrous, especially one with the huge national security consequences of climate change.”
“The future has a way of humbling those who try to predict it too precisely,” Kerry said at the hearing. “But we do know, from scientists and security experts, that the threat is very real. If we fail to connect the dots—if we fail to take action—the simple, indisputable reality is that we will find ourselves living not only in a ravaged environment, but also in a more dangerous world.”
Photo: A convoy of the U.S. Army’s 515th Transportation Division moves fuel around Baghdad, Iraq. Courtesy Flickr user heraldpost.