'President Barack Obama will use his commencement address at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday to label climate change as a threat to military readiness and infrastructure, not merely an environmental danger.
The move comes as the White House releases a new report on the national security implications of warmer global temperatures and melting polar ice, arguing that a rise in natural disasters will put more strain on National Guard emergency response efforts and potentially endanger thousands of military facilities.
The comments are sure to rile conservative lawmakers who question the science behind climate change and have accused the president of ignoring the military's core missions in favor of larger social issues.
As part of the push, the Defense Department is assessing how potential "extreme weather events" could affect more than 7,000 bases and installations, citing the widespread damage after events like Hurricane Sandy in 2012.
In excerpts provided in advance of the speech, Obama calls the academy graduates "the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us."
He'll highlight the unique threat rising sea levels could pose to Coast Guard stations and Naval bases in low-lying areas, along with thawing permafrost already damaging military facilities in Alaska.
Virginia National Guard soldiers flood victims after Hurricane Sandy in October 2012. The state's governor has activated hundreds of guardsmen in anticipation of Hurricane Joaquin.
Photo Credit: Army photo
And the president will also call for ways to "decrease the harmful carbon pollution that causes climate change" and tout new Environmental Protection Agency standards for emissions from power plants.
The Defense Department is already the single largest user of electricity in the county, and has publicly outlined plans to bump up use of renewable energy over the next decade.
The new report also highlights international threats posed by natural disasters, "which worsen refugee flows and conflicts over basic resources like food and water." It also argues climate change will act as "an accelerant of instability around the world," one that U.S. forces will be called upon to solve.
Commencement ceremonies at the academy are scheduled to start at 11 a.m.
Hurricane Sandy caused major destruction along the East Coast in 2012.
Photo Credit: Master Sgt. Mark Olsen/Air Force