Copenhagen Dispatch: It’s Time To Secure The Future From The Climate Threat

Our guest blogger is Michael Breen, a former US Army Captain. He served two tours, one in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He is from New Hampshire and currently studying law at Yale.

The United Nations Climate Change Conference is in its final week, and the streets of Copenhagen are packed with government officials, scientists, engineers and non-profit leaders. Operation Free joined their ranks yesterday, when a dozen combat veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan touched down to spread a crucial message: the stability of our climate and the security of our globalized world are inextricably linked. As veterans, we’ve learned the hard way that the drought, famine and scarcity climate change will bring produces a breeding ground for insurgency and terrorism. More than glaciers and polar bears are at risk — preventing climate change is a struggle for the security and prosperity of every human being on the planet.

Even with the vast array of organizations and agendas present at the conference, our message is catching on. Waiting to enter the convention hall Tuesday morning, I talked with botanists and engineers with a plan to restore trees to the Sahara desert, delegates representing a series of small islands existentially threatened by rising sea levels, and a vegan activist in a chicken suit. When I mentioned that I was an Iraq and Afghanistan veteran here to discuss the link between climate change and global security, even the chicken stood up and took notice.

Each of them understood that while Operation Free is a coalition of American veterans, the security threat posed by climate change is equally real for nations around the globe. The scientific consensus is overwhelming. If we continue to burn dirty fuels at our current rate, increasing carbon levels in the atmosphere will cause significant shifts in the earth’s climate. According to a new analysis by the Pentagon and the CIA, the resulting drought, famine and flooding will lead to a dramatic increase in global conflict.


As veterans of a global fight against insurgency and terrorism, we’ve seen the link between scarce resources and violence at eye level. In Afghanistan, my small Forward Operating Base took rocket fire on a weekly basis. As we struggled to defend ourselves, we gradually realized that our attackers weren’t hardened insurgents — they were local tribesmen who had lost their livelihoods to deforestation and drought. Knowing that the local people were struggling to feed their families, the Taliban was quick to move in. They offered these former farmers and loggers a simple deal: ten dollars for every rocket they fired at the American camp.

Unless we take immediate action to prevent climate change, the same deadly dynamic will become a global fact of life. This week in Copenhagen, Operation Free is committed to helping secure the future.


After Sen. Jim Inhofe (R-OK) visited Copenhagen this morning to undermine the President on climate action, Operation Free’s Jonathan Powers made the following statement:

The inevitable result of flood, famine, and refugee crisescaused by climate change are the weak and failed states that become the safehavens and recruiting bases of extremists. Yet Jim Inhofe continue to ignorethis threat to America’s and the world’s security and abdicate hisresponsibility as a US Senator. Every day he delays action is one less daywe have to protect us and our allies from preventable threats.

The simple fact is that our dependence on a fossil fuelsmakes America more vulnerable, while climate disruptions make the world a more dangerous place for our soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines. Veterans across America working with Operation Free understand the threat. American and international military leaders know that climate change and dependence on dirty energy is a threat and they are taking action. It’s time for Jim Inhofe to put our security before partisanship and take his cue from the men and women who have dedicated their lives to securing their country.