THE OTHER REASON TO DEAL WITH THE CLIMATE CRISIS…. Those who follow the issue are well aware of this, but it was good of the New York Times to highlight the national security implications of global warming. For that matter, it was encouraging to know this issue is gaining prominence in policy circles.
The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.
Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.
Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response.
An exercise last December at the National Defense University, an educational institute that is overseen by the military, explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent hundreds of thousands of refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off religious conflict, the spread of contagious diseases and vast damage to infrastructure. “It gets real complicated real quickly,” said Amanda J. Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning.
Retired Marine Gen. Anthony Zinni, former commander of U.S. Central Command, recently wrote, “We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.”
The reasons for combating the climate crisis are already overwhelming, but security challenges usually aren’t at the forefront. Given the interests of those who prefer to ignore the crisis, perhaps it’s time to reframe the debate to consider an angle they care about.
Sen. John Kerry, for example, noted that in Sudan, drought and expansion of deserts has produced horrifying violence and displacement. “That is going to be repeated many times over and on a much larger scale,” he said.
Indeed, Kerry has been making this argument for the last several years, but finally has an ally at the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue. The NYT noted, “Although military and intelligence planners have been aware of the challenge posed by climate changes for some years, the Obama administration has made it a central policy focus.”
The matter has also crystallized in the Pentagon. Amanda Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, who is working with a Pentagon group assigned to incorporate climate change into national security strategy planning, said she’s seen a “sea change” in the military’s thinking of late, and will be incorporated into national security strategy moving forward.
Just another angle for wavering lawmakers to consider when the ACES debate begins in earnest in the Senate.