Yesterday, President Trump signed the Presidential Executive Order on “Promoting Energy Independence and Economic Growth” which, as my colleague states, represents an all-out attack on climate solutions.
While policy watchers had been expecting the Administration’s attack on climate policy for some time, what many of us are still amazed at is that President Trump’s anti-climate science and policy flies in the face of the American people, who on average believe global warming is happening (70%), is caused by humans (53%), is harming people (51%), and will harm future generations (70%).
Even more amazing is the Administration’s failure to understand the climate connection when it comes to our national security.
The Military has connected the climate and security dots
During his recent visit on March 2 to Newport News Shipbuilding in Hampton Roads, President Trump was flanked by Defense Secretary Mattis and two Republican congressmen Reps. Scott Taylor of Virginia Beach and Rob Wittman.
Aboard the USS Gerald R. Ford he “lauded the Navy and the shipyard’s workforce” and underscored that he will be strong on defense (pledging to increase defense spending). In a region that is a sea level rise hotspot, where municipalities along with military bases are taking steps to cope with rising seas, the obvious, glaring omission from his speech was climate change.
While the omission was jaw-dropping, it’s not surprising, as he continues to fail to connect the climate and security dots. He has called climate change a hoax and as many people have pointed out, even President Trump’s own “Winter White House” aka Mar-a-lago, located at what can be argued as a hot spot of sea level rise, hasn’t helped him make this connection. And finally, not even the long history of the military recognizing climate change as a threat nor President’s Trump’s own Secretary of Defense, James Mattis, have helped. In Mattis’ unpublished testimony, he swiftly connected the dots on climate change & national security stating that climate change is a national security issue, it requires a whole of government approach, and the DoD needs resources to adequately prepare for these changes.
President Trump’s ‘Energy Independence’ Executive Order comes in stark contrast to the military’s record on climate change and binds the hands of the Department of Defense (DoD) in ensuring our nation’s readiness in the face of climate change. The Executive order revokes the 2016 memorandum on Climate Change and National Security which established an agency-wide working group to set priorities and recommendations on addressing climate change impacts to our national security.
Alice Hill, who served in the Obama administration as the Special Assistant to the President and Senior Director for Resilience Policy for the National Security Council (and who led the working group) underscores that in addition to the Department of Defense, the Department of Homeland Security, the Department of State, and the National Intelligence Council (NIC) all recognize that climate change is a threat and that we are already feeling the impacts.
The NIC’s September 2016 report, entitled Implications for US National Security of Anticipated Climate Change, finds six key pathways in which climate change will threaten national security:
ONE: threatens the stability of countries.
TWO: heightens social and political tensions.
THREE: adversely effects food prices and availability.
FOUR: increases risks to human health.
FIVE: negatively impacts investments and economic competitiveness.
SIX: increases risks of abrupt climate change or “climate discontinuities and secondary surprises”.
Indeed, this is all too true and we have an abundance of evidence on these six pathways:
- On the stability of countries: the risk of armed-conflict outbreak is increasing and that social and political tensions are fueling armed conflicts around the world particularly prone are North and Central Africa and Central Asia (also see G20 Policy Brief on Climate and Displacement)
- On heightened social and political tensions: we know that climate change is swelling the numbers of displaced persons (in fact one person every second is displaced by climate change).
- On food prices and availability: studies show that climate change is already affecting food prices and scarcity, take for instance northeastern Syria from 2007 to 2010 when the worst drought on record caused crop failures and mass migration all of which were contributing factors that led to the civil war in 2011 (see this link for more evidence on climate change causing Syrian instability).
- On risks to human health: the American Public Health Association has dubbed 2017 as the year of climate change and health and the Medical Society Consortium recently released their “MEDICAL ALERT! Climate Change Is Harming Our Health” report indicating among many other facts that children bear a greater burden of climate-associated health impacts.
- On investments and economic competitiveness: Schroders climate change survey found that climate change represents a significant threat to the global economy in the current century and will have an inflationary impact on the world economy.
- On abrupt climate change: The Journal of Atmospheric Chemistry and Physics published a paper by James Hansen and many others, who warn that the current climate mitigation targets don’t go far enough and will actually lead to a more dangerous climate with stronger storms, rising sea levels among other impacts (click here for a “101” on abrupt climate change).
Our recent study, US Military on the Frontlines of Rising Seas, drives home how our own military installations are at risk to being mostly underwater in the near future due to sea level rise.
Moreover, the Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission finds that “sea level rise risks to coastal military installations will present serious risks to military readiness, operations and strategy.”
While President Trump has hit the “Ctrl-Alt-Delete” on climate science and climate policy, he can’t delete the stark evidence of the impacts of climate change that are happening now (more and longer-lasting droughts and wildfires, more frequent and heavier downpours, more severe floods, to name a few) and that billion-dollar disasters are increasing across the nation and worldwide.
Nor can President Trump press the Ctrl-Alt-Delete buttons on the hard-wired role of the military to ensure its readiness to any threat, including climate change.