National Security Threatened Due to a Warming World

by Chloe Rodman

Jeff Goodell (2015) writes in Rolling Stone Magazine that 30 of the United States’ domestic military bases are in jeopardy due to climate change and rising sea levels. These stations either must be relocated in the near future or put out of commission because not only are they sinking into the ocean, but the compounds become flooded with each storm, making work almost impossible. Because of these recent trends, the Pentagon, as well as President Obama, believe that “…climate change poses immediate risks to our national security.” While many powerful and important members of the military and government believe action must be taken regarding climate change, some members of congress do not agree. These congress members, some of whom happen to be on various military committees, castigate those who believe in climate change or those who liken it to other global disasters such as terrorism or infectious disease.

The climate-denying politicians, predominantly Republicans, strive to diminish the link between national security and climate change. Recently an amendment passed in the House forbids the Pentagon from spending any money related to climate change. In 2009, the CIA, headed by Leon Panetta created the Center of Climate Change and National Security. This group was backed by the National Academy of Science, and its goal was to collect information on the global and domestic impact of climate change. When the report was completed, the press conference that planned to release the findings was canceled by some unknown hand, and lost in a pigeonhole—out of sight, out of mind.

However, Donald Rumsfield, secretary of Defense for George W. Bush, did manage to publish ‘An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.’ This document found that climate change was a greater menace to not only to the United States, but also to the world, than terrorism.

The cost of trying to counter the impact climate change will have on the United States military is enormous. Since it is predicted that 28 million acres of land and 555,000 bases, on both East and West coasts, will be affected, the project would cost hundreds of billions of dollars. The cost will not only be monetary, but the United States will also lose many invaluable station vantage points all over the globe—island bases that will soon be under water due to the melting Arctic permafrost.

Problems have already arisen from climate change. Droughts and food shortages due to a warming world are partially responsible for the start of the Egyptian Arab Spring, the Syrian civil war and the terrorist attacks in Nigeria. Now, tensions are high in between United States and Russia once again. Resources are being uncovered due to the melting permafrost in the Arctic. Russia recently placed one of its flags in the uncovered seabed, unofficially claiming the territory. Normally, this wouldn’t concern the Pentagon but the new Russian midrange nuclear missile, the Bulava, can travel from this Arctic region to any East Coast city, such as New York City or Boston.

The United States is not equipped to work in the Arctic however, even if it wanted to. We do not have the resources that Russia has. The United States Navy weather forecasting ability, satellite communications, and lack of seabed surveillance in the area leaves them relatively blind in the freezing conditions. In addition, representatives on the committee that supervises Coast Guard Affairs argue that if a country wants to be successful in dealing with the Arctic conditions, they must have Icebreakers—equipment made specifically for freezing conditions. Russia has 43 Icebreakers, and the United States has one—which happens to be 40 years old.

The United States Navy is the most competent sea force in the world, however, as the climate warms and sea levels rise, chaos will also increase with natural disasters and political and social upheavals. With this increase in disorder, the Navy will be expected to intervene more often, to both aid and rescue other countries. The problem is, however, with the number of climate deniers in congress and their strategic locations in congressional committees, it does not appear that they will have enough resources to do so.

Goodell, Jeff. 2015. The Pentagon & Climate Change: How Deniers Put National Security at Risk. Rolling Stone.



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