Late last week, the White House took aim at a central and established tenet of national security: the threats posed by climate change. Our military and defense leaders have established, through rigorous research, that climate change threatens the national security of the United States. By creating a so-called “National Security Council Panel” to challenge that reality, the Trump Administration jeopardizes our safety. Americans must respond now.
National security experts are preparing for climate change
In the past six months, the National Climate Assessment, Department of Defense, and Director of National Intelligence each identified climate change as one of the greatest national security threats to human security in our world today. These are the latest developments in a 15-year history of such reports, dating back to a Department of Homeland Security (DHS) report describing threats of climate change. That DHS report envisions a world in which extreme temperatures disrupt food and water access, leading to food insecurity and conflict between nations.
Since the initial DHS report, national security experts have developed language to describe the way climate change simultaneously affects so many components of governance that it threatens to overwhelm us: Threat Multiplier. Extreme weather—including extended drought, flooding, and ever-intensifying storms, as DoD’s 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review clarifies — create cycles of stress on our infrastructure that weakens us to external (malign) threats. On top of existing economic, social, and political tensions, climate change adds another layer of pressure through resource competition: “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.” We have seen threats multiply firsthand, here in Colorado.
In August 2018 alone, helicopters from the Colorado National Guard’s Buckley Air Force Base mobilized to fight the Cabin Lake Fire and Cache Creek Fire, having fought the Spring Fire the month before. A different detachment from Buckley Air Force Base began a one-year deployment to Afghanistan at the turn of the New Year, with the press release stating, “The unit supported civil authorities during the 2013 Colorado floods and during numerous wildfires affecting our state.” As climate change drives extreme weather patterns, we are asking our National Guard service members to do double duty.
The military takes climate change seriously
The military has been a leader on climate protections, both because its leaders see an existential threat to global temperature changes, but also because they see personnel threats to reliance on fossil fuels.
Energy independence has been at the center of the military’s attention both to reduce America’s dependence on oil-producing countries and to eliminate vulnerabilities stemming from forward operating bases’ dependence on fuel convoys, which are open to attacks. As former Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus told the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2012, “Fuel is a tactical and operational vulnerability in theater; guarding fuel convoys puts our Sailors and Marines’ lives at risk and takes them away from what we have them there to do: to fight, to engage, and to rebuild.” This has the military investing in new clean energy technology, such as solar panel blankets and rechargeable batteries, and trying to reduce and ultimately eliminate the need for vulnerable fuel convoys in unsafe regions.
How seriously does the U.S. military take this threat? While we are introducing small amounts of biofuels to consumer vehicles, all U.S. Navy ships and aircraft can now fly on up to 50 percent renewable biofuels, and three years ago, the Navy flew fighter jets on 100 percent biofuels. The objective is to lessen dependence upon foreign oil and to limit fuel transportation requirements.
Vets and national security actors advocate for renewable energy
Truman National Security Project (TNSP) formed Operation Free in order to bring together veterans and national security actors who believe oil dependence and climate change pose serious threats to U.S. national security. Our community understands that the solution to these threats is the development and implementation of clean energy in our military and civil society. This month, the Colorado Chapter of TNSP presents the first event in a new Climate + National Security series by The Alliance Center. Climate + National Security presents a moderate panel on the national security threats associated with energy dependence and climate change. The event is free and open to the public. We invite you to attend.
The Department of Homeland Security, Department of Defense, and U.S. intelligence services, regardless of White House panels, consider climate change as a serious national security threat — Operation Free’s coalition of veterans and national security actors do as well.
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