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Climate change and the end of cheap oil are a National Security issue

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  • Dick McManus
    February 14, 2013:   While our political leaders have failed to adequately address energy sustainability and climate change, our national security
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 14, 2013
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      February 14, 2013:   While our political leaders have failed to adequately address energy sustainability and climate change, our national security professionals have long been calling for action. They point to a range of concerns, from geopolitical dependence on unstable regimes to fears of climate refugee crises to the vulnerability of military supply lines. Their bottom line is the twin challenges of climate change and long term energy insecurity are serious threats to U.S. national security that deserve responses now. It is time for our politics to catch up.
      Dependence on unstable regimes. Thirty three retired generals and admirals warn: "America's billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil makes us vulnerable to unstable and unfriendly regimes. A substantial amount of that oil money ends up in the hands of terrorists. Consequently, our military is forced to operate in hostile territory, and our troops are attacked by terrorists funded by U.S. oil dollars, while rogue regimes profit off of our dependence. As long as the American public is beholden to global energy prices, we will be at the mercy of these rogue regimes. Taking control of our energy future means preventing future conflicts around the world and protecting Americans here at home." [Letter from 33 retired Generals and Admirals, 4/29/10]
      Long, vulnerable supply lines for our military. Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs Sharon Burke explains the vulnerability of the long and complicated supply lines associated with the military's high demand for energy, "one of the things we're really focused on is reducing demand, [which is] reducing our consumption, because no matter what kind of energy we're using, the amount of energy we're using causes us problems in practice - particularly in the kinds of fights we're fighting today where so much of our logistics train is in the battlefield." [Sharon Burke, 10/18/10]
      Increased tensions even in stable parts of the world. The Center for Naval Analyses report explains, "The U.S. and Europe may experience mounting pressure to accept large numbers of immigrant and refugee populations as drought increases and food production declines in Latin America and Africa. Extreme weather events and natural disasters, as the U.S. experienced with Hurricane Katrina, may lead to increased missions for a number of U.S. agencies, including state and local governments, the Department of Homeland Security, and our already stretched military, including our Guard and Reserve forces." [Center for Naval Analyses, 4/07]
      Accelerating and multiplying threats. The Quadrennial Defense Review of the Department of Defense's strategy and priorities states, "While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world." A seminal report on the issue of climate security from the military think tank the Center for Naval Analyses finds, "Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security... Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world." The report adds, "Unlike most conventional security threats that involve a single entity acting in specific ways and points in time, climate change has the potential to result in multiple chronic conditions, occurring globally within the same time frame. Economic and environmental conditions in already fragile areas will further erode as food production declines, diseases increase, clean water becomes increasingly scarce, and large populations move in search of resources. Weakened and failing governments, with an already thin margin for survival, foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism, and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies." [QDR, February 2010. CNA, 2007]
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