“Global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems - such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions - that threaten domestic stability in a number of countries,” according to a Pentagon report on the national security risks of climate change.
Defense Secretary James Mattis shares this view telling the Senate Armed Services Committee: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”
The National Intelligence Council prepared a report on the “Implications for U.S. National Security of Anticipated Climate Change.” The key points of that report state: “Long-term changes in climate will produce more extreme weather events and put greater stress on critical Earth systems like oceans, freshwater, and biodiversity. These in turn will almost certainly have significant effects, both direct and indirect, across social, economic, political, and security realms during the next 20 years. These effects will be all the more pronounced as people continue to concentrate in climate-vulnerable locations, such as coastal areas, water-stressed regions, and ever-growing cities. Climate change and its resulting effects are likely to pose wide-ranging national security challenges for the United States and other countries over the next 20 years through the following pathways:
• Threats to the stability of countries: Many countries will encounter climate-induced disruptions—such as weather-related disasters, drought, famine, or damage to infrastructure - that stress their capacity to respond, cope with, or adapt. Climate-related impacts will also contribute to increased migration, which can be particularly disruptive if, for example, demand for food and shelter outstrips the resources available to assist those in need. (Example) Fueled by unusually warm Arabian Sea waters, two separate tropical cyclones hit Yemen in 2015 in the span of just 10 days, including the first hurricane-strength storm to hit the country in recorded history. Already suffering a humanitarian crisis from war and water shortages, Yemen was unable to provide adequate relief for its citizenry. Heavy rains have since fueled the breeding of an unusually large population of desert locusts that threaten to devastate Yemen’s agriculture, and efforts to eradicate the locusts have been stymied both by the difficult security situation and by fear of killing bees, a crucial pollinator for the region’s honey and crop production.
• Heightened social and political tensions: Decreases in water and disputes over access to arable land will increase the risk of conflict between people who share river basins, aquifers, or land areas. (Example) In 2012, mass protests and violence erupted over water shortages in Nouakchott, Mauritania. More than 70,000 refugees had migrated to Mauritania by July that year because of deteriorating conditions in neighboring Mali, putting additional pressure on Mauritania’s water and soil resources, already strained by drought and desertification. Even if climate-induced environmental stresses do not lead to conflict, they are likely to contribute to migrations that exacerbate social and political tensions, some of which could overwhelm host governments and populations. The Arctic is warming twice as fast as the rest of the planet, transforming rapidly…The resulting retreat of sea ice is creating new possibilities for resource extraction, tourism, fishing, and shipping routes between the Atlantic and Pacific. (Example) Contention over Russia’s claim to 1.2 million square kilometers of Arctic shelf, which Moscow submitted to the United Nations in August 2015, could increase friction with rival claimants, including Denmark and Canada.
• Adverse effects on food prices or availability: More frequent extreme weather events, ranging from droughts to extreme rainfall, would significantly threaten agricultural production. (Example) In Australia, the world’s third-largest beef exporter, the direct and indirect impacts of heatwaves have contributed heavily to a decline in cattle stocks to the lowest levels in 20 years.
• Increased risks to human health: Extreme heat increasingly will contribute directly to deaths from cardiovascular and respiratory disease across the globe, particularly among the elderly, according to the US National Institutes of Health. Example) The 2003 heatwave in Europe fueled their hottest summer on record since at least 1540, and contributed to more than 70,000 deaths, according to a peer-reviewed study by the French Institute of Health and Medical Research. Higher temperature and, in some regions, more rainfall and flooding are likely to increase the frequency of water-borne diseases and diseases transmitted by insects, snails, and other cold-blooded animals in those areas.
• Implications for investments and economic competitiveness: Past and anticipated extreme weather events may discourage investment in regions deemed particularly vulnerable. (Example) The chairman of Lloyd’s of London, one of the world’s largest and most influential insurance markets, has stated that climate change is its primary concern. Allianz, Europe’s largest insurer, has said that climate-change-driven losses from extreme events could increase by 37 percent within a decade.
• Potential climate discontinuities and secondary surprises: While current climate models project long-term increases in global average surface temperatures, climate scientists warn that more sudden, dramatic shifts could be possible, given the complexity of the system and analogs in the climate record. A body of scientific research indicates that the current rate of increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere is the highest in perhaps as long as 66 million years, sea levels are rising faster than in the past 2,700 years, and the oceans are acidifying more rapidly than in the past 56 million years.
The report also notes that even if aggressive environmental policies are pursued, the growth of global average surface temperatures would not be slowed for at least 15-20 years because “of the lag time for complex global climate systems to respond to changes in human behavior.”
Countless scientific studies have shown that the world must take action now to drastically reduce carbon emissions in order to avoid the most catastrophic consequences of climate change. Climate activist Bill McKibben proposes that we mobilize to fight climate change in much the same way we did to defeat Hitler and Japan during World War II. In an article entitled, “A World at War,” he wrote in August 2016: “World War III is well and truly underway. And we are losing. Carbon and methane now represent the deadliest enemy of all time, the first force fully capable of harrying, scattering, and impoverishing our entire civilization. For years now, climate scientists and leading economists have called for treating climate change with the same resolve we brought to bear on Germany and Japan in the last world war. In July, the Democratic Party issued a platform that called for a World War II-type national mobilization to save civilization from the ‘catastrophic consequences’ of a ‘global climate emergency.’ In fact, Hillary Clinton’s negotiators agreed to plans for an urgent summit ‘in the first hundred days of the next administration’ where the president will convene ‘the world’s best engineers, climate scientists, policy experts, activists, and indigenous communities to chart a course to solve the climate crisis.’”
He then explained how President Franklin Roosevelt shifted the nation’s industrial focus to winning World War II. The federal government established new agencies such as the War Production Board and the Defense Plant Corp. which spent $9 billion on 2,300 projects in 46 states, building factories it then leased to private industry. “In 1941, the world’s largest industrial plant under a single roof went up in six months near Ypsilanti, Michigan; Charles Lindbergh called it the ‘Grand Canyon of the mechanized world.’ Within months, it was churning out a B-24 Liberator bomber every hour…Nearby, in Warren, Michigan, the Army built a tank factory faster than they could build the power plant to run it—so they simply towed a steam locomotive into one end of the building to provide steam heat and electricity. That one factory produced more tanks than the German’s built in the entire course of the war.”
Many American businesses entered the war effort reluctantly said McKibben: “In reality, many of America’s captains of industry didn’t want much to do with the war until they were dragooned into it. Henry Ford, who, built and managed that Ypsilanti bomber plant, was an America Firster who urged his countrymen to stay out of the war; the chamber of commerce (now a leading opponent of climate action) fought to block FDR’s Lend-Lease program to help the imperiled British. ‘American businessmen oppose American involvement in any foreign war,’ the chamber’s president explained to Congress.”
McKibben argues that America must make the same commitment to defeat climate change: “Gearing up to stop global warming would provide a host of social and economic benefits, just as World War II did. It would save lives. (A worldwide switch to renewable energy would cut air pollution deaths by 4 to 7 million a year, according to the Stanford data.) It would produce an awful lot of jobs. (An estimated net gain of roughly two million in the United States alone.) It would provide safer, better-paying employment to energy workers. (A new study by Michigan Technological University found that we could retrain everyone in the coal fields to work in solar power for as little as $181 million, and a guy installing solar panels on a roof averages about $4,000 more a year than the guy risking his life down in the hole.)”
With life on Earth as we know it literally at risk, it took an act of sheer stupidity for President Trump to abandon the voluntary goals established in the Paris Climate Accord. In doing so, he abdicated American leadership in the world and defied the overwhelming advice of scientific and national security experts. Of course, Trump’s minions in Congress, including Arkansas senators and representatives, supported his lunacy. This continues their pattern of rejecting the best expert advice when setting health care or climate change policy.
Jeff Foxworthy hosted a game show, “Are You Smarter than a 5th Grader?” Our representatives in Congress apparently are not since most fifth graders would have the good sense to rely on more knowledgeable people, such as parents and teachers, to answer important questions.