Diane Brower: Climate change affects U.S. military
February 3, 2018
The U.S. military is generally regarded as having a pragmatic and pro-active approach to security threats in our country and abroad. As an adult who grew up in a military family, I’m very interested to hear about efforts of the U.S. military to consider the impacts of climate change on national security.
So, a chapter with the title "Weapon of Mass Destruction" in the book, “The Water Will Come,” really caught my attention. This chapter describes the impact of climate change on military infrastructure and national security.
In January 2017, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said, "Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating." A 2014 document from the Pentagon titled the “Quadrennial Defense Review” referred to "…the effects of climate change — drought, rising seas, more extreme weather — 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.’"
Beyond concerns about climate change as a "threat multiplier" much is reported about its impact on sea level rise. There are 704 coastal military installations and sites that are threatened by sea level rise.
With a rainstorm and a high tide, Naval Station Norfolk on the Virginia coast the biggest navy base in the world, is inundated by ocean water. Keeping up with rising ocean water in this one place is threatening military readiness and costing hundreds of millions of dollars, billions in the future. Eventually, it will have to be moved.
Another example of the problem is the Marshall Islands, where radioactive waste from previous U.S. nuclear testing is stored at sea level and is in danger of being breached by rising sea water.
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These threats are serious and acknowledged by many in the highest level of the military. The military’s efforts to address the threats of climate change are prudent and necessary. But here’s the catch: the politics in our country are standing in the way of a move in this direction. How can you take steps to solve a problem when you deny it exists?
In 2007, Senator John McCain said, "If the scientists are right and temperatures continue to rise, we could face environmental, economic and national security consequences far beyond our ability to imagine." Since 2007, scientific evidence for human-caused climate change has gotten even stronger.
Back then, Sen. McCain, true to his "maverick" reputation, spoke openly about the threats of climate change. But political "realities" have since pushed him into the denier category. The insistence by the large majority of the Republican Party that climate change is not real could be the biggest threat to the well-being of us all.
Climate change denial is being supported and funded by those who profit from fossil fuels development. Unfortunately, our U.S. Senator Cory Gardner and U.S. Representative Scott Tipton are two of those Republicans who toe the party line on climate change.
Call Sen. Gardner at 202-224-5941 and Rep. Tipton at 202-225-4761 and tell them they need to move into the 21st century and take action to address the impacts of climate change on our national security.