Commentary

Stemming climate change will protect the nation’s security

Military and national security experts have long identified climate change as a national security threat. But, despite 97 percent of scientists, NASA and the Department of Defense agreeing that climate change is real and demands action, the Trump administration has proven itself unwilling to lead on this issue. President Trump even failed to mention climate change during this year’s State of the Union Address or in his proposed 2021 budget he sent to the U.S. Congress.

A new report from the nonpartisan security policy institute Center for Climate and Security (CCS), where I serve as a non-resident fellow, confirms our worst fears about the cost of inaction: climate change not only jeopardizes public health and the environment, but also exponentially deepens the national security threat to the nation, and particularly our military, unless we take immediate action. The report by CCS, a non-partisan organization with an advisory board of military and national security experts, notes heightened social and political instability and risks to U.S. military missions and infrastructure, impacting our military readiness and putting our troops in harm’s way.

Climate change is already affecting military readiness, multiplying the threat to troops on the ground around the world and ultimately jeopardizing the American military’s ability to protect us from emerging geopolitical instability driven by climate change impacts. From deadly floods to extreme heat, our troops are feeling the impacts of the climate crisis as it makes extreme weather events increase in their frequency and severity. A report released by the Department of Defense found that more than two-thirds of critical military installations are threatened by climate change.

In the Midwest, for example, this includes Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, which was left at risk following historic flooding in 2019. In the western United States, Army bases like those in Arizona and Colorado are at risk from rising temperatures, jeopardizing our troops readiness and their well being.

Instead of listening to military experts who have now regularly sounded the alarm about the national security implications of climate change, through multiple Quadrennial Defense Reviews and other defense planning efforts that identify climate change as a threat multiplier, President Trump continues to pursue an unending series of dangerous rollbacks that ultimately put our nation at risk. He has rolled back nearly 100 public health and environmental safeguards, leaving our communities and troops increasingly vulnerable to the catastrophic impacts of climate change. His withdrawal, too, from the Paris Climate Agreement is a clear abdication of American leadership on global climate action because we are failing to meet our commitment to reduce carbon pollution.

President Trump must heed calls from his military leaders and act to limit the carbon pollution that is driving climate change and endangering our security. He should support bold legislative solutions like those in the House of Representatives and Senate that put our country on a path towards a 100% clean economy. Moving to clean energy sources, like wind and solar, will help stem the climate crisis and, in so doing, protect our troops and by extension the nation’s security.

Bishop Garrison is the president and co-founder of the Joseph Rainey Center for Public Policy. He previously served in multiple national security positions in President Obama’s administration and as the deputy foreign policy adviser on the presidential campaign of Secretary Hillary Clinton.

Editor’s note: This is an Op-Ed and as such, the opinions expressed are those of the author. If you would like to respond, or have an editorial of your own you would like to submit, please contact Military Times managing editor Howard Altman, haltman@militarytimes.com.

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