Global warming is national security threat

lacrosse Tribune Logo

OP-ED, JAN. 11, 2015

Global warming is national security threat

By Vince Hatt

A young man pushes the wheelchair of his grandfather off the plane into the cheering crowd at the La Crosse Regional Airport. The two of them are returning from Washington, D.C., after visiting the World War II Memorial as part of the Freedom Honor Flight.

D-DayThis veteran is part of the “Greatest Generation.” His generation responded with unselfishness and courage when our national security was threatened by attacks from Japan and Germany. Because of his generation, the United States was secure when World War II ended 70 years ago.

Seventy years from now will be 2085. The current generation will be as old as the veterans of WWII are now. What will the grandchildren of this generation think of their grandparents?

Think back to Christmas when our grandchildren opened our presents. Their excitement, joy and hugs made us feel like we may be the greatest generation to them.

What will they think of us in 2085? Will they think of us as the greatest generation? It may depend on our response to what is becoming the biggest long-range threat to our national security. If we respond with unselfishness and courage to this national security threat, they may consider us the greatest generation. If we do not, they may consider us selfish, short-sighted and stupid.

What is this national security threat? Global warming.

Who says so? The Pentagon.

In its report, the 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, the Pentagon states that the effects of global warming and climate change could very well lead to acute food and water shortages, waves of destitute refugees and violent fights over dwindling natural resources— a likelihood that should be viewed as an immediate threat to U.S. national security.

This sobering message on climate change is not authored by scientists or environmentalists but by uniformed personnel at the Department of Defense.

The Military Advisory Board of the Center for Naval Analysis agrees. This Board is made up of 16 retired generals and admirals. It says that the lack of comprehensive action by both the United States and the international community to address the full spectrum of climate change raises concerns about national security. It states that this concern has moved from the distant future to the present.

The opportunity for comprehensive action by the international community comes in Paris in December 2015 at the United Nations Climate Change Conference. This meeting hopes to overcome 20 years of fraught negotiations with a universal commitment to reduce carbon emissions. For the sake of national security, it is imperative that the United States and China take leadership roles at this meeting. The recent agreement between these two largest polluters offers some hope that this will happen.

Another sign of hope that this conference will be fruitful is that Pope Francis will use his international moral leadership to encourage its success. This year he will publish a major document called an encyclical on the environment and climate change addressed to 1.2 billion Catholics and of interest to millions of others. In it he will speak of the seriousness of climate change on international security and the poor.

Moreover, he will give an address to the U.N. General Assembly and call for a summit of the world’s main religions on climate change. Pope Francis has enormous popularity in the United States for his humility, loving presence and his willingness to confront the evils in the Curia, the administrators of the Vatican. It will be interesting to see how the people of the United States respond when he confronts us as major polluters of the world causing a threat to international security.

In a recent article in Scientific American, most Americans think global warming is a problem or somewhat of a problem. However, only a small minority says it touches them personally. This is understandable with the daily problems that take our time. It is understandable but not acceptable.

National security during WWII touched the greatest generation very personally. Our generation must take the threat of global warming to our national security just as seriously. If we don’t, our grandchildren will face catastrophic results. We need to insist that our government take an unselfish and courageous role at the Paris 2015 meeting. We also need to pass national legislation such as the fee and dividend plan to reduce greenhouse gas emissions proposed by Republican George Shultz, former Secretary of State for Ronald Reagan.

What will our grandchildren think of our generation in 2085? It may be determined by our response to the national security risk of global warming. Not tomorrow but today.

Vince HattVince Hatt is a member of the local Citizens’ Climate Lobby chapter.

This op-ed appeared originally in the LaCross Tribune.

Steve Valk
Steve Valk is Communications Coordinator for Citizens' Climate Lobby. Steve joined the CCL staff in 2009 after a 30-year career with the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.