U.S. Military Plans Policy Shift in Response to Anticipated National Security Threats Caused by Climate Change

Friday, May 16, 2014
Naval Station Norfolk (photo: U.S. Navy)

Some conservatives continue to insist climate change is an exaggeration, if not a hoax. But the institution so beloved by the right-wing—the U.S. military—believes climate change is real and represents a serious threat to long-term national security.


For the second time in two months, a major report has warned that climate change is affecting the world and could disrupt important military operations in the U.S.


First, there was the March release of the Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Review, which lays out American military strategy. In it, experts established a connection between the effects of global warming and terrorism.


“These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad, such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions — conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence,” the review said.


Then this week, the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, a respected government-funded military research organization, released its report (pdf) saying U.S. armed forces must prepare for climate-change-related troubles here and abroad.


It mentioned droughts in the Middle East and Africa and rising sea levels in India, Bangladesh and Vietnam as having the potential to cause major civil disruptions and instability, for which the American military must prepare in the event they affect U.S. foreign policy goals.


There are also worries about extreme weather, which can produce catastrophic floods requiring help from American troops, and even flooding in the U.S. that could jeopardize military ports.


General Charles Wald, who is retired from the U.S. Air Force and was a contributor to the report, warned that the largest Navy base—Norfolk, Virginia—could experience flooding from rising sea levels.


“Norfolk is so big, it’s so important to the Navy, it’s important to Virginia for jobs, and it would go,” Wald told The New York Times.


“In the past, the thinking was that climate change multiplied the significance of a situation,” he added. “Now we’re saying it’s going to be a direct cause of instability.”

John Conger, deputy under secretary of defense for installations and environment, confirmed that the Pentagon stands behind the report’s conclusions.


 “The department certainly agrees that climate change is having an impact on national security, whether by increasing global instability, by opening the Arctic or by increasing sea level and storm surge near our coastal installations,” Conger said in a statement. “We are actively integrating climate considerations across the full spectrum of our activities to ensure a ready and resilient force.”


Despite these remarks from former military leaders and current defense officials and the preponderance of scientific evidence, some Republicans reject warnings about global warming.


Senator James Inhofe of Oklahoma, the ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, reduced the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board’s report to nothing more than ex-military men seeking attention.


“There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer,” Inhofe said of the report’s authors. “I look back wistfully at the days of the Cold War. Now you have people who are mentally imbalanced, with the ability to deploy a nuclear weapon. For anyone to say that any type of global warming is anywhere close to the threat that we have with crazy people running around with nuclear weapons, it shows how desperate they are to get the public to buy this.”

-Noel Brinkerhoff


To Learn More:

Climate Change Deemed Growing Security Threat by Military Researchers (by Coral Davenport, New York Times)

National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change (CNA Military Advisory Board) (pdf)

U.S. Military Prepares for Global Unrest Amid Climate Fears (by Marlene Cimons, Climate Nexus)

The US Military Leads on Climate Change (by Lt. Gen John Castellaw, USMC [Ret] and Rear Adm. David Titley, USN [Ret])

Defense Contractors View Climate Change as “Business Opportunities” (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)


bradfregger 10 years ago
First, there's not an informed conservative in the world that doesn't believe in climate change. Only ignorant individuals don't know that climate change is a natural process. So ... Please quit suggesting otherwise. In fact, only ignorant progressives see climate change as something new, something to be feared. Second, the military MUST have scenarios for any eventuality, especially when the commander and chief is a climate change fanatic. Bottom line, this entire post makes silly arguments, much like creationists pointing at the Bible to prove their core beliefs.

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