The Pentagon's Climate Change Report Wages War On Global Warming, Years Too Late

Heads up to all the climate change deniers on Fox News: This week, the U.S. Department of Defense finally called climate change a threat to national security. The Department published its damning climate change report, officially titled the Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, which laid out the threats posed by global warming and how the armed services plans to adjust to them. Rising seas, extreme weather, droughts, and resource scarcity will not only impact the American military’s readiness to respond to crises at home and abroad, the report warns, but will also exacerbate instability and conflict around the world.

This matters. The Department of Defense, a sacrosanct institution in Washington D.C. circles, has declared that climate change is a real and present threat. Protecting the nation calls for paying close attention to climate science, not denying it.

“We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be pro-active in addressing them,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said in a statement Monday.

The report was released this week during Hagel’s visit to Peru, which will host the United Nations climate summit this December. In his remarks, Hagel stressed how climate change will act as a “threat multiplier” to make worse any number of potential disasters, from the spread of infectious diseases to forced migration to armed conflict. (Not to mention the displacement of this group of walruses that turned up on the Alaskan coastline last month, most likely because they couldn't find enough Arctic ice.)

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Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict, the report concludes. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.

The report also notes that this increased instability and the “gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”

According to Andrew Holland, senior fellow for Energy and Climate at the American Security Project, the Department of Defense has studied the effects of climate change for years. But this new report turns what used to be a prospective threat for military readiness into a present risk for the entire nation’s well-being, Holland told Vice.

Notably, the report explains that the Department of Defense’s response to climate change will follow two paths: first, planning for military resilience in the face of predicted climate changes; and second, cutting back on greenhouse gas emissions to offset the worst of the environmental damage. The Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap released this week, however, only looks at the military’s own capacities in light of global warming.

But here is, perhaps, what is most telling: the Defense Department report, while it stays firmly away from political skirmishes, does signal to politicians that the time for denial and delay is over.

Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning, the plan concluded. Our armed forces must prepare for a future with a wide spectrum of possible threats, weighing risks and probabilities to ensure that we will continue to keep our country secure.

Whether the Defense Department’s authority is enough to offset the money and pull of the traditional energy industry in Congress is highly unlikely. But with each legitimate voice joining the clamor for proactive, aggressive action to prevent and respond to climate change, the climate change deniers are having a harder time making their case against science.

After all, nearly 400,000 people flooded New York a few weeks ago for the People’s Climate March. Once media outlets stop providing platforms for climate change deniers and politicians looking to fund their reelection campaigns with oil money — ahem, Fox News — perhaps that number might be even higher.

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