In general, when Defense Department leaders alert Congress to a national-security threat, we expect Republican lawmakers to take it seriously. Rebecca Leber reported this week, however, Pentagon concerns about climate change affecting military operations are being ignored by GOP officials.
At a Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing [on Tuesday], a Department of Defense representative laid out how climate change is exposing its infrastructure in coastal and Arctic regions to rising sea levels and extreme weather, and that it's even impacting decisions like which types of weapons the Pentagon buys. This is only the latest in a series of recent warnings from the military, which raised the issue as far back as George W. Bush's second term.
In March, the Pentagon warned, in its Quadrennial Defense Review, that the effects of climate change "are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions -- conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence." In other words, increased drought and water shortages are likely to trigger fighting over limited resources.
What's striking is the Republicans' indifference. In fact, it's worse than indifference -- GOP lawmakers aren't just ignoring the Pentagon's concerns about climate and national security; they're actually pushing hard in the other direction.
Kate Sheppard noted a few months ago that House Republicans "passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill ... that would bar the Department of Defense from using funds to assess climate change and its implications for national security."
Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.), the sponsor of the measure, argued at the time, "The climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the [world], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"
The answer, of course, is that climate change and national security, whether the right chooses to acknowledge this or not, are inextricably linked. Telling U.S. military leaders they must bury their heads in the sand because congressional Republicans say so won't help.