The Climate Patriots take up the global warming fight

Today’s guest blogger is Max Weiss, an Intern on CAP’s Energy Opportunity Team.

Many military leaders and Afghan and Iraq veterans have warned that global warming and oil dependence will harm U.S. national security. A new video “Climate Patriots,” by the PEW Project on National Security and Energy, warns that climate change is the enemy we’ve been forgetting to fight. It includes American military leaders and retired officers who are very concerned about the security impact of inaction:

Climate Patriots from Laura Lightbody on Vimeo.

The video underscores the inextricable link between climate change and national security. There are the challenges that the impacts of climate change themselves pose to American soldiers and armed forces abroad. Rising temperatures and changing weather patterns will lead to an increase in humanitarian disasters, like refugee situations, according to the Pentagon’s most recent Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). This will put a stress on U.S. military’s capability to help after such events. “It’s a natural part of American foreign policy to help people who need it,” said Captain James Morin in the video, “and as long as that’s true, and as long as climate change continues to get worse, it’s just going to make the job that much harder.”


The impacts of global warming will create increased political instability as tensions over resource scarcity and refugee situations come to a head. As former Chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee John Warner notes in Climate Patriots, future military missions will be a direct consequence of a combination of erratic climate change and resource shortages: “[our soldiers] may be called upon to perform missions which are a consequence of an erratic climate change or shortage of energy or a variety of both.” The Department of Defense echoes the Climate Patriots in the QDR:

The rising demand for resources, rapid urbanization of littoral regions, the effects of climate change, the emergence of new strains of disease, and profound cultural and demographic tensions in several regions are just some of the trends whose complex interplay may spark or exacerbate future conflicts.

Our dangerous reliance on foreign oil threatens our security as well. For example, in 2008 the U.S. imported 4 million barrels of oil a day from nations deemed “dangerous or unstable” by the U.S. State Department. We spent $150 billion for this oil. These funds support some regimes that do not share many of our foreign policy objectives. Admiral John Natham believes that it is cheaper to invest in efforts to increase our energy independence and to curb pollution saying, “You can pay me now, or you can pay a whole lot later. And if I pay a whole lot later, it’s not just about dollars, it’s really about American lives.”

The Center for Naval Analyses points out that there is a finite supply of fossil fuels on the planet that is being drained by increasing global demand, and we are increasingly supporting dangerous and unstable governments with our energy dollars. Continuing our heavy reliance on these fuels is a security risk that “should be fully integrated into national security and national defense strategies.”

By following the senior former military leaders’ call to transition to a clean energy economy and reduce dependence on foreign oil now, we can protect our national security. The Climate Patriots video sheds light on this important””yet under reported”” aspect of how global warming affects us as a nation. So let’s support the troops by adopting a comprehensive climate change policy as a pillar of a national security.

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