White House report stresses national security dangers posed if greenhouse gas emissions continue to rise
By Ed King
Climate change will create regions where terrorists thrive and will directly impact the US military, the White House has warned.
A report published on Wednesday says refugee numbers will rise as climate-related natural disasters increase, while conflicts over food and water will likely intensify.
“The present day effects of climate change are being felt from the Arctic to the Midwest. Increased sea levels and storm surges threaten coastal regions, infrastructure, and property,” it said.
“In turn, the global economy suffers, compounding the growing costs of preparing and restoring infrastructure.”
This could see to a breakdown in governance in vulnerable countries, said the authors, highlighting the need to help poorer countries prepare for future impacts.
“Strained access to staple resources, damaged infrastructure, and mass migration present challenges to ensuring the stability of regions abroad, creating environments ripe for terrorist activity.”
The report was based on four major federal studies published in the past 24 months, including the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, and the 2014 Quadrennial Homeland Security Review.
Highlighting the domestic threat rising levels of greenhouse gas emissions pose to US citizens has been one of the major plays by the Obama administration, keen to drum up support for CO2 cuts.
Addressing the US Coast Guard Academy on Wednesday President Obama said climate change would cut to the “core” of the service’s future.
“I’m here today to say the climate change constitutes an immediate risk – make no mistake it will impact how our military defends our country. We have to act and have to act now.”
“If you see storm clouds you don’t sit back and do nothing.. anything else is a dereliction of duty. Denying it or refusing to deal with it undermines our national security.”
Most Republican lawmakers are hostile to any new climate laws, and suspicious of White House efforts to secure a UN deal to curb emissions later this year in Paris.
Obama officials have frequently linked Hurricane Sandy in 2012 and the ongoing drought in California to global warming.
While scientists say they cannot pinpoint exactly what is and isn’t climate related, a UN panel of experts said in 2014 climate change was likely to make extreme weather events more common.
Some US military installations would need to be moved in the event of future sea level rise, said the report, which also cited water shortages, flood and fire hazards as threats.
Over 7000 bases are being assessed to see if they will be operational in the future, while the National Guard’s ability to respond to floods and storms is also under assessment.
“Installations near the coastlines are threatened by coastal erosion and sea level rise, damaging infrastructure and reducing the land available for operations,” the report said.
“Intensified heatwaves will present challenges to outdoor training and personnel efficiency.”
Defence planners would need to prepare for an “increasingly hostile climate”, it added, suggesting the effectiveness of some weapons systems would need to be reviewed as a result.
“Climate change will also impact the design of current and future weapons systems to account for extreme weather,” it said.
“Due to conditions such as prolonged temperature exposure, moisture, or sand, weapons planners need to plan for increased maintenance needs and more units in the field to maintain a ready force.”
Obama’s warning was backed by former British Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti, who said global prosperity and security depended on countries taking steps to cut emissions.
“In highlighting the national security implications of a changing climate today, President Obama is not just talking about a risk to the security of the United States,” he said.
“Action, through a commitment by governments to a low carbon energy strategy, is required now to reduce these risks; there is no security solution to climate change.”