Climate change is not just an environmental or economic issue; it’s a threat to US national security. Former Defense Secretary and Republican Senator Chuck Hagel recently warned, “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict.”[i]

In its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon concurred that climate change will likely “aggravate stressors abroad that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”[ii]

The current refugee crisis is an example of climate-induced conflict. The Syrian civil war followed an unprecedented drought that triggered widespread crop failure and mass migration of farmers to cities. As these climate induced migrations become more common, experts speculate there could be as many as 200 million climate refugees over the next 30 years.[iii]

Admiral Samuel Locklear said in 2013 that climate change could “cripple the security environment” in the Pacific.[iv] And last year, a Defense Department report to Congress identified climate change as “a present security threat, and not strictly a long-term risk.”[v]  

We’re not exempt from climate threats here at home. At the Naval Station Norfolk in Virginia, which houses our nuclear submarines, sea levels have risen an astounding 14.5 inches over the past 80 years, [vi] and could rise more than five feet by the end of the century.[vii]

Climate change isn’t a right or left issue. It’s an issue we must act on, regardless of ideology. As retired Rear Admiral David W. Titley put it, “This issue is about science, not politics, and the military is taking it very seriously.”[viii]

The simplest, most efficient way to counter climate change is by making it more expensive to burn fossil fuels by putting a price on carbon. How else do we combat climate change? Stay tuned.

[i] John Banusiewicz, “Hagel to Address ‘Threat Multiplier’ of Climate Change,” DoD News. October 13, 2014.

[ii]Department of Defense, “Quadrennial Defense Review,” 2014.

[iii] International Organization for Migration, “A Complex Nexus.”

[iv] Bryan Bender, “Chief of US Pacific forces calls climate biggest worry,” Boston Globe. March 9, 2013.

[v] National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate, U.S. Department of Defense, July 23, 2015, a report in response to a request from Congress

[vi] Forbes Tompkins and Christina Deconcini, “Sea-Level Rise and it’s Impact on Virginia,” World Resources Institute. June, 2014.

[vii] Lori Montgomery, “In Norfolk, evidence of climate change is in the streets at high tide,” May 31, 2014.

[viii] Rear Adm. David W. Titley, “Climate change threatens national security,” Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. July 5, 2014.

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