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Turning Wind Farms Into Weapons Systems, Part 1

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"Turning Wind Farms Into Weapons Systems, Part 1"

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Wouldn’t it be interesting if the Commander-in-Chief and the leaders of the world’s most powerful military force began to think of climate change as an issue vital to national security?

World's Largest PV Project to Power Nevada Military BasePonder the implications: Investments in renewable energy, energy efficiency, distributed generation and zero-carbon buildings might become a critical part of our national defense budgets. Solar collectors would become as important as M-16 rifles; plug-in hybrids as vital as M-1 tanks. Our arsenal would include weapons of mass mitigation.

If that seems far-fetched, consider what’s just happened in the defense and intelligence communities. Over the last two weeks, climate change has graduated officially from an environmental to a full-fledged national security issue. Now, any candidate who isn’t gung-ho about reversing the nation’s greenhouse gas emissions should be considered soft on national defense.

In case you missed them, here is a recap of the latest developments. At the end of June, the National Intelligence Council completed the first-ever National Intelligence Assessment of climate change. Its contents are classified, but the chairman of the Council, Dr. Thomas Fingar, summarized key findings before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence on June 25.

We judge global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the next 20 years…From a national security perspective, climate change has the potential to affect lives (for example, through food and water shortages, increased health problems including the spread of disease, and increased potential for conflict), property (for example through ground subsidence, flooding, coastal erosion and extreme weather events) and other security interests.

The United States depends on a smooth-functioning international system ensuring the flow of trade and market access to critical raw materials such as oil and gas, and security for its allies and partners. Climate change and climate change policies could affect all of these…

In addition, anticipated impacts to the Homeland — including possible increases in the severity of storms in the Gulf, increased demand for energy resources, disruptions in US and Arctic infrastructure and increases in immigration from resource-scarce regions of the world — are expected to be costly.

While the study was a first for the National Intelligence Council, it wasn’t the first by U.S. experts in national security and defense. As Climate Progess reported in the past, the Center for Strategic and International Studies and the Center for a New American Security issued “The Age of Consequences” last November, concluding that the expected level of global warming will produce “heightened internal and cross-border tensions caused by large-scale migrations; conflict sparked by resource scarcity, particularly in the weak and failing states of Africa; increased disease proliferation, which will have economic consequences; and some geopolitical reordering as nations adjust to shifts in resources and prevalence of disease.”

Ten months earlier, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), a private think-tank, assembled a prestigious and broadly experienced team of 11 retired flag officers (three and four-star Admirals and Generals) to evaluate the climate-security connection. Their conclusions — that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that deserves immediate attention — essentially are confirmed by the new NIA.

The day after Fingar’s testimony, Sherri Goodman of the CNA told Congress:

What are the potential security consequences of these destabilizing effects? Overall they increase the potential for failed states and the growth of terrorism; mass migrations will lead to greater regional and global tensions; and tension over resources, particularly water, are almost certain to escalate.

A significant number of Americans appear to appreciate this. On the same days that Fingar and Goodman were testifying on the Hill, Harris Interactive conducted a nationwide poll commissioned by the Presidential Climate Action Project. The poll found that:

  • 63% of likely voters consider it important that the next president take strong action to address climate change soon after taking office.
  • 41% of Americans believe that if strong action is not taken, our national security will be threatened by global instability.

Meantime across the Atlantic, Lord Nicholas Stern made news on June 25 by warning that the cost of preventing dangerous levels of atmospheric carbon concentrations (above 500 parts per million) has doubled in the past two years. In 2006, Stern estimated that nations needed to spend 1% of their GDP immediately to avert climate disaster. Stern now says that evidence shows climate change is happening more quickly than had been thought. He estimates that the necessary global investment today is “around 2% of GDP”.

Lest anyone think that 2% of GDP is too high a price, Goodman offered Congress a direct quote from Gen. Anthony Zinni, former Commander of the U.S. Central Command:

We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today…or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives. There will be a human toll. There is no way out of this that does not have real costs attached to it. That has to hit home.

These developments are important for the following reasons:

  • Top security experts within the Bush Administration have confirmed that climate change has direct and indirect impacts on the issues of most concern to voters: terrorism, economic stability, health care, immigration and energy prices.
  • Leading security experts have joined leading climate scientists in concluding that we need to act now to prevent not only the worst consequences of climate change, but also the most dangerous threats to our national security.
  • The Pentagon has multiple reasons to “go green”, including independence from a vulnerable electric grid at home and less need to ship fossil fuels to the battlefield. The latest intelligence findings could spur it to go even greener. Green procurement at that scale could help shape the marketplace in favor of low- and now-carbon goods and services.
  • Recognition at the highest levels of government that climate change and national security are interconnected should move adaptation and mitigation high on the list of national priorities for both the next President and Congress.

These conclusions from the nation’s intelligence community make clear that the do-nothing policies of the White House over these past eight years have been negligence of the worst kind: an abdication of the President’s responsibility to carry out the fundamental purposes of the U.S. Constitution, to “insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity.”

Each incoming President must pick a few priorities that will receive his personal attention. For the next President, there can be no question that global climate change must be one of them.

– Bill B.

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9 Responses to Turning Wind Farms Into Weapons Systems, Part 1

  1. Robert says:

    I don’t exactly see climate change as a national security issue. However bad the climate gets I don’t think slitty-eyed invaders will be queueing up to steal the US’s climate…

    The world’s biggest single issue is population which continues to rise towards 10 figures. Climate change will introduce a well needed element of survival of the fittest which could eventually work in the US’s favour, given its abundant resources and sparse population.

    Energy security presents a stronger argument than climate change wrt national security.

  2. Brian says:

    Yea! Death to Africa! Americans are the greatest people on Earth!

    Silly Robert, ethnic cleansing is for Hitler…

  3. thingsbreak says:

    Joe, I tracked down a few other climate-security reports from the past few years as well, in case you’d like to add more.

    Great post, as always.

  4. charlie says:

    I love it when liberals try to turn everything into national security; they figure the pentagon gets money so if the pentagon runs it will get money too.

    AIDS. Female education. Now climate change.

    We do have an energy security problem — a quarter of our oil comes from Nigeria and Venezuela. However, only Venezuela is a NATIONAL security problem.

    My estimate is we buy $46 billion of oil from them a year. Compared to the $10 billion in coke we buy from Columbia, that is a real bargain.

  5. Bill Becker says:

    Charlie — The National Intelligence Council will be interested to know that you consider it a hotbed of liberalism. So will the 11 retired Admirals and Generals who concluded last spring that climate change is a security issue. Hope you don’t start hearing strange sounds during your telephone conversations…

  6. Robert says:

    Brian – I’m not trying to evaluate the political correctness; just the issue of whether climate change is a threat to national security. I can see all sorts of economic problems but I just don’t see that anyone would start a war over it or invade the US.

    Energy security is another matter. I can easily see wars starting over that, mainly started by the US. Pretty much everyone now recognises and admits that Iraq 2003 was exactly that. Maybe they will even hail Bush as a far sighted president in the fullness of time(!).

    p.s. I am a UK ciizen, so no particular US political axe to grind. Just an interested observer of an empire in decline.

  7. Earl Killian says:

    Robert, “national security” encompasses more than the threat of invasion. It seems quite plausible that global warming will start wars, as the NIC predicts. Drought and rising sea levels could force the migration of large populations or fights over dwindling resources. Some see Darfur as the first global warming war. So far the U.S. has ignored Darfur, but similar events in countries the U.S. considers strategic could bring about U.S. troop involvement.

    Maybe they will even hail Bush as a far sighted president in the fullness of time(!).

    Bloody unlikely; he’s more likely to be sent to stand trial in the Hague.

  8. Lamont says:

    “Brian – I’m not trying to evaluate the political correctness; just the issue of whether climate change is a threat to national security. I can see all sorts of economic problems but I just don’t see that anyone would start a war over it or invade the US.”

    No, the point is that it is a “threat multiplier” which means it makes existing threats worse. As oil climbs in cost it becomes more expensive for the US military to operate. As more fossil fuels need to be shipped into the theater it exposes troops to supply issues with those fuels. It isn’t that someone will take military action against the interests of united states over fuel, necessarily, but that the US military will be less able to respond against those kinds of actions.

  9. erotik says:

    Ten months earlier, the Center for Naval Analysis (CNA), a private think-tank, assembled a prestigious and broadly experienced team of 11 retired flag officers (three and four-star Admirals and Generals) to evaluate the climate-security connection. Their conclusions — that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that deserves immediate attention — essentially are confirmed by the new NIA.