Dozens of military and defense experts advised the president-elect that global warming should transcend politics
It may well end up in the paper shredder, but a bipartisan group of defense experts and former military leaders sent Donald Trump’s transition team a briefing book urging the president-elect to consider climate change as a grave threat to national security.
The Center for Climate & Security in its briefing book argues that climate change presents a risk to U.S. national security and international security, and that the United States should advance a comprehensive policy for addressing the risk. The recommendations, released earlier this year, were developed by the Climate and Security Advisory Group, a voluntary, nonpartisan group of 43 U.S.-based senior military, national security, homeland security and intelligence experts, including the former commanders of the U.S. Pacific and Central commands.
The briefing book argues that climate change presents a significant and direct risk to U.S. military readiness, operations and strategy, and military leaders say it should transcend politics. It goes beyond protecting military bases from sea-level rise, the military advisers say. They urge Trump to order the Pentagon to game out catastrophic climate scenarios, track trends in climate impacts and collaborate with civilian communities. Stresses from climate change can increase the likelihood of international or civil conflict, state failure, mass migration and instability in strategically significant areas around the world, the defense experts argue.
Trump hasn’t weighed in on climate change as a national security threat, although he has called climate change a “hoax” perpetrated by the Chinese.
Many military leaders say that considering climate change and renewable energy has made their branches more resilient fighting forces and bureaucracies, starting with reducing emissions and creating a nimble fighting culture that is less dependent on fossil fuels. By reducing their carbon footprint, they become a combatant in the war on rising global temperatures, military leaders say.
But considering climate change a national security problem remains controversial, especially among Republicans.
An executive directive issued in January within the Department of Defense required Pentagon agencies to take climate change into account and to consider its effects when developing plans and implementing procedures.
And President Obama in September ordered federal defense and intelligence agencies to consider the effects of a warming planet in the national security policies, plans and doctrines they develop (ClimateWire, Sept. 22).
The memo requires 20 federal agencies to collaborate to make sure decision makers have the best available information on climate change impacts and their potential threats to national security. The agencies are as varied as NASA and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, which gather scientific observations on climate, and the CIA, the National Security Agency and the Department of Defense, which analyze intelligence and develop national security policy.
Republicans have been skeptical of tying climate change to national security. House Republicans this summer passed defense appropriations and authorization bills that bar the Defense Department from spending money on efforts to combat climate change, including green fuel projects.
And after the White House memo issued in September, Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Texas), the chairman of the House Science, Space and Technology Committee, wrote to national security adviser Susan Rice requesting that the Obama administration offer proof of its assertion that climate change is a national security threat.