With the start of the Republican National Convention this week in Tampa, FL, the GOP draft platform has been getting a lot of attention, particularly for its extreme anti-abortion language and opposition to gay rights. But the Republican platform also attacks President Obama’s National Security Strategy for including “climate change” as a “severe” national security threat:
“The strategy subordinates our national security interests to environmental, energy and international health issues, and elevates ‘climate change’ to the level of a ‘severe threat’ equivalent to foreign aggression. The word ‘climate,’ in fact, appears in the current President’s strategy more often than Al Qaeda, nuclear proliferation, radial Islam, or weapons of mass destruction. The phrase ‘global war on terror’ does not appear at all and has been purposely avoided and changed by his Administration to “overseas contingency operations.'”
There’s a reason Obama’s strategy elevates climate change to a “severe” threat: it’s because that assessment reflects the reality. Indeed, as CAP’s Michael Werz notes in a April report, “The potential for the changing climate and associated migration to induce conflict or exacerbate existing instability is now recognized in national security circles.”
But recognizing a changing climate as a key national security threat is nothing new. Back in 2007, a military advisory board convened by CNA found that climate change “poses a serious threat to America’s national security,” “acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world” and “will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world.”
“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,” the New York Times reported in 2009.
The Defense Department agrees. In its latest defense review, the Pentagon says that “climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment” and that climate change “may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.”
And Media Matters recently provided a list of 15 current and former national security officials who have said climate change poses a serious security threat, noting that “experts across the political spectrum agree that climate change poses a serious threat to our national security, and that transitioning to alternative energy will enhance military effectiveness.”
Indeed, as Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said in May, “The area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security. Rising sea levels, severe droughts, the melting of the polar caps, the more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”