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Climate Change Endangers National Security: It's a Fact

03 Jun 2015  |   Elizabeth Hirsch

Tags: Climate Change

"Climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now."

-President Barack Obama

The impacts of climate change are clear, and we are already experiencing climate-fueled extreme weather, including longer droughts, record-breaking heat waves, more intense storms, increased flooding and devastating sea level rise. The consequences of this extreme weather will continue to be felt in every part of the country, resulting in higher food prices, water shortages, and damaged infrastructure. Another critical impact of climate change that we often overlook is its impact on national security. 

(The Photographs were taken by CraneStationdsleeter_2000wavian,thewrongglass)

President Obama is leading by example and connecting the dots from climate change to significant threats to our nation’s safety. In fact, he recently spoke out about this important national security threat in a commencement speech to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, noting that climate change is here and will impact every country, no matter the size or region. In the speech, President Obama compared denying or ignoring climate change to negligence and dereliction of duty. 

Critics have scoffed at the notion that climate change is a serious national security threat. However, what critics fail to understand is that climate disruption is already impacting many regions around the world and already leading to conflict. A 2014 report by CNA Corporation’s Military Advisory Board identified climate change as a catalyst for conflict in vulnerable regions of the world. This extreme weather is starting to cause social discontent and puts stress on our natural resources. Climate disruption also creates political and social insecurities that can be a breeding ground for terrorism and violence. For example, sea level rise in a densely populated coastal area can lead to mass migration and dislocation, creating tense relationships with neighboring countries. Additionally, exacerbated food and water insecurity due to climate disruption can potentially lead to conflict both within and between nations. 

The president is not the first to connect the dots and speak out about the dangers of climate change to national security. At a hearing of the House Armed Service Committee in March of this year, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter acknowledged that climate change poses a strategic military problem, and we can no longer afford inaction. Additionally, the Council on Foreign Relations completed a special report concluding that “climate change may cause humanitarian disasters, contribute to political violence, and undermine weak governments.”

It cannot be emphasized enough: climate change is and will continue to be a national security threat. The president, military, NASA and 97% of scientists all agree that climate change is here, man-made, and a threat to our security. The time to tackle climate change is now. We thank President Obama for his leadership in making climate change policy a national priority because we know that our safety and security depend on it. 

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