Republican Presidential Candidates Say Climate Change Isn’t A Foreign Policy Issue

CREDIT: Dylan Petrohilos/AP Photo

In two separate foreign policy addresses in South Carolina on Friday, Republican presidential candidates Scott Walker and Marco Rubio both criticized Democrats for addressing climate change as a foreign policy issue.

Hillary Clinton, President Barack Obama and other Democrats have spoken about the need to address climate issues as international policy and global security issues. But the Wisconsin governor and Florida senator, both climate change deniers, ruled out the possibility they would address global climate issues while dealing with what they see as major security threats like “radical Islamic terrorism” and Obama’s Iran deal.

“Political rhetoric will not keep us safe,” Walker said during his speech at The Citadel, the military college of South Carolina in Charleston. “We’ve had enough of a president who proclaims that the greatest threat to future generations is climate change.”

Similarly, in his speech focused on the country’s policies toward China at the Charleston Metro Chamber’s World Trade Center, Rubio criticized Clinton for acting on climate change when she served in the Obama administration.

“This is one of many reasons Hillary Clinton must not become our next president,” Rubio said. “One of her first actions as secretary of state was to reassure China’s rulers that cooperation on climate change, of all things, was more important to her than calling Beijing to account for its violations of human rights.”

Obama is currently traveling to a number of U.S. cities, including New Orleans on the tenth anniversary of Hurricane Katrina, to discuss the threats climate change pose to the country. Throughout his presidency, he has also addressed climate change as a foreign policy issue and has worked with other countries to take action to toward cleaner energy, renewable energy development, cutting energy waste, and reducing emissions, among other initiatives.

Obama has also stressed the links between climate change and conflict. The White House said in a report earlier this year that “a changing climate will act as an accelerant of instability around the world, exacerbating tensions related to water scarcity and food shortages, natural resource competition, underdevelopment, and overpopulation.”

Rubio’s denial of climate change as a human rights issue ignores all of the human rights implications of the warming of the planet — effects that are even more apparent on the anniversary of Hurricane Katrina’s destruction. The United Nations has called climate change a human rights issue because of the potential effects of sea level rise, natural disasters and other climate issues that undercut people’s rights to health, food, water, and even self-determination.

“Climate change impact is a moral issue above all,” Anote Tong, president of the small island nation Republic of Kiribati, told the UN. “It remains the biggest moral challenge facing human kind, and for low lying countries, climate change is about our survival into the future.”

The U.S. military understands the realities of how climate change affects people around the world and the negative impacts of heavy dependence on fossil fuels. But the presidential candidates aren’t the only lawmakers to ignore its expertise. The Republican controlled-House continues to dig in its heels, last year passing an amendment to prevent the Department of Defense from using funding to address the national security impacts of climate change.