Sunday, December 06, 2015

Climate Change and National Security

Earlier this year, President Obama told grads at the US Coast Guard Academy that "climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security," which will "impact the way our military defends our country."  Long before the President was first elected in 2008, climate change was on the military's mind.  In a 2003 report, the defense department warns that food shortages, a decrease of fresh water, and a disruption to energy supplies were unlikely, but plausible enough to warrant adjustment from the national security apparatus.  At the time, the recommendations were to adapt and engineer our way out of it.

A decade later, climate change is potentially creating more problems.  First, with the heating of the globe and the melting of ice caps at the poles, the ocean levels could are rising.  Some of the largest population centers are at risk of being swallowed by the ocean.  If this were to become a present danger, the military would have to be prepared to develop a plan to rescue millions of people.  In addition, the navy would effectively have more ocean to patrol.  But even before the ice caps have melted, climate change is effecting populations around the globe today.  There are reports that try to link climate change with the Arab Spring.  Russia is expanding oil drilling into the arctic due to the break up of ice caps that have prevented this in the past.  President Obama has responded by requesting more coast guard ice breakers to protect U.S. interests in the region.

As the world discusses climate change at COP 21 in Paris, the U.S. military is preparing for the risks associated with climate change but also has the potential of being a part of the solution of averting the crisis.  The military is a large developer of green technologies that could mitigate the effects of climate change.  All that is needed is the political will to scale up and continue to develop these technologies.

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