President Obama To Coast Guard Graduates: Climate Change Is A ‘Serious Threat To Global Security’


President Barack Obama and Ensign Mary Elizabeth Hazen strike a pose after she received her diploma and commission at the U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduation. Obama used his address to talk about the threats posed by climate change.

President Barack Obama told the Coast Guard graduating class Wednesday that climate change is a “serious threat to global security.”

Climate change “will affect everything that you do in your careers,” Obama told the class of 2015 at a graduation ceremony in New London, Connecticut. He applauded the Coast Guard’s low-emissions initiatives and called on the newly commissioned officers to be leaders in the continued effort to reduce carbon emissions.

“Our men and women in uniform show us the way,” he said. “They are used to sacrifice and they are used to doing hard stuff.”

Climate change will directly impact the Coast Guard’s activities. In addition to causing rising sea levels and diminishing sea ice, which will literally change the shape of the Coast Guard’s purview, climate change is also behind increased extreme weather events and can contribute to political instability. In his speech, Obama referenced climate change’s role in Superstorm Sandy, as well as in war and terrorism in Syria and Nigeria.

“This is not just a problem for countries on the coast or certain regions in the word,” he said. “Climate change will affect every country on the planet.”

Readiness in the face of climate change is an increasing concern for the U.S. military. Climate change is expected to impact to homeland security, economic structures, and the safety and health of Americans, Obama said.

The same day as Obama’s speech, the White House released “The National Security Implications of a Changing Climate,” a collection of findings that outlines climate change’s impacts on national and international security, as well as the new demands it puts on military resources. The report concludes:

Climate change is predicted to strain economies and societies around the world, placing an additional burden on already-vulnerable nations abroad and putting pressure on capacity at home. Climate change will change the nature of U.S. military missions, demand more resources in the Arctic and other coastal regions vulnerable to rising sea levels and other impacts, and require a multilateral response to the growing humanitarian crises that climate change is predicted to bring.

The Commander of the U.S. Pacific Forces has called climate change the biggest threat to the region’s security.

Obama didn’t miss the opportunity Wednesday to call out those who question or deny the science behind climate change, a group that includes over 56 percent of Congressional Republicans.

“The best scientists in the world know climate change is happening,” Obama said. “Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening.”

Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years, Obama noted. This year, the earth has seemed to break heat records every month.

“Politicians who say they care about military readiness ought to care about this, as well,” Obama added.

Denying anthropogenic climate change is being seen more and more as anti-American. In a video interview with Obama last month, Bill Nye framed accepting the science as an important part of being a patriot.

U.S. carbon emissions are lower than they have been in decades, Obama said, but he noted that it would take cooperation in the global community to address overall emissions.

“As a nation, we face many challenges…. yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we must not and cannot ignore a peril that can effect generations,” Obama said.