Dropping Climate Threats from National Security Strategy Is Nonsensical

On Monday this week, the White House released a new National Security Strategy, a statutorily mandated document that outlines for the American public, U.S. allies and partners, as well as the federal agencies, what the nation’s major security concerns are, and how President Trump plans to deal with them.

Among the strategy’s targeted aspirations is to ensure the United States “will remain a global leader in reducing traditional pollution, as well as greenhouse gases, while expanding our economy.”

That passage is the only place in the 60-page document that mentions greenhouse gases. Incredibly, this administration’s national security strategy is devoid of any mention of climate change, despite scientific-based evidence of the damage resulting today from rising global temperatures and ocean levels, as well as additional risks anticipated to result from climate change over the decades ahead.

Climate-related events affect national security by disrupting food production, spreading disease, interrupting commerce, forcing migration and sparking conflict.

There is a growing body of evidence that demonstrates that climate change is occurring now, and that it is a major threat multiplier to production agriculture across the globe. Toward that end, the North American Climate Smart Agriculture Alliance (NACSAA) is meeting Jan. 16 in Washington, DC, where farmer leaders and their value chain partners from the United States, Canada and Mexico will share adaptive management strategies, and discuss opportunities that now exist for the agriculture sector to deliver food, feed, fiber, clean energy, climate change solutions and other ecosystem services.

The nonsensical omission of climate change from the administration’s new security strategy also runs contrary to the Pentagon’s efforts over the past 10 years to reduce fossil fuel use – a leading source of greenhouse gases (GHGs) that contribute to climate change – and power military installations with renewables like wind, solar and biomass, as well as fuel planes, ships and vehicles with biofuels.

Earlier this year, Reuters news service published an extensive analysis offering in full detail the reasons why the Department of Defense continues to pursue clean energy alternatives. Senior military officials told the news service that the nation’s armed forces remain committed to an effort to transition high fuel-demand operations to renewable power, citing logistical reasons that have remained unchanged since the move to shift power sources began more than a decade ago.

The U.S. armed forces are the nation’s single largest consumer of energy. Twenty percent of the military’s energy consumption occurs at its installations, and the Defense Department pays around $4 billion annually to provide power to its 300,000-plus facilities in the United States and around the world. And while the military uses more oil than any other organization in the world, defense officials and military officers say there is no real control over this single source of energy. U.S. reliance on oil empowers countries and regimes that are hostile to the United States and continue to be identified as national security threats.

More recently, the Climate and Security Consensus Project, a nonpartisan, Washington-based think tank initiative involving foremost experts in the military and national security arenas issued a rather pointed statement that climate change poses a major security risk both in the United States and abroad, and that a wide-range of policy measures must be adopted to address the pending hazard.

Retired Navy Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, a former 25x’25 Steering Committee member and a member of the Center for Climate and Security advisory board, maintains the position that reducing the military’s use of oil is essential to national security and troop safety, while helping to eliminate susceptibility to fuel price spikes. The former assistant secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment and a past commander of the Navy’s Third Fleet cites the economic benefits of the military’s pursuit of clean energy, pointing to data showing that the Defense Department’s investment in the military’s use of biofuels alone will generate at least $10 billion in economic activity and create more than 14,000 jobs by 2020.

Trump’s exclusion of climate change from the new security strategy runs contrary to not only military concerns, but also to a report issued in October by the General Accounting Office – an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for Congress. The so-called “congressional watchdog” charged with investigating how the federal government spends taxpayer dollars, recommended the White House take action to address climate change. The agency reported that without implementing measures that mitigate the impacts of extreme climate events, which has resulted in the spending of billions of disaster assistance dollars, the federal government will only have to respond with even more spending in the future.

The 25x’25 Alliance calls on all stewards of the earth, be they agriculture producers, clean energy stakeholders, or even everyday citizens, to tell policy makers that the reality of climate change cannot be ignored. The president must be made to understand that addressing this issue directly and substantially is imperative for the United States to maintain its position of global leadership.

 

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