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U.S. Military Warned about Climate Change

Climate change-denying senators scramble to respond

climate-change-us-military-051414Yet another major report this week on climate change.

This latest, published on Tuesday by the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, warns the government that global warming now represents a major national security threat.

That’s because the accelerating rate of climate change is driving conflicts all over the world and putting our own national security at risk. In other words, if the U.S. Government wants to protect our national security interests, then it needs to take action right now to mitigate global warming.

A report like this puts pressure on climate change deniers in the U.S. Congress – especially those on the right who like to be seen as the guarantors of national security.

That’s the conundrum Senators James Inhofe and Marco Rubio found themselves in this week. Inhofe is a climate change-denying senator who actually believes the nonsense he’s talking. Rubio knows better but doesn’t want this to get in the way of running for President.

Each of them was scrambling to respond to a report that explains how:

  • Drought in the Middle East and Africa is turning ethnic tensions into violent wars. (Check out our post last September on how the war in Syria is basically all about water.)
  • In large parts of South Asia, rising sea levels are putting people and water and food supplies at risk.
  • And all of this, along with increasingly catastrophic weather events around the planet, will put heavier demands and more strain on the U.S. military.

As Secretary of State Kerry told the New York Times:

“Tribes are killing each other over water today. Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”

Yet another report, two months ago, from the Pentagon made a direct connection between climate change and terrorism:

“These effects 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.”

And right here at home, the U.S. Navy is already grappling with rising seas that routinely flood the streets of naval bases.

James-Inhofe[1]So, how does a pro-military senator who chooses not to believe in climate change respond when the military says we have to do something right now about climate change?

Senator Inhofe’s answer is to accuse retired General Charles F. Wald, one of the authors of the two studies, of simply wanting to get more attention for himself.

“There is no one in more pursuit of publicity than a retired military officer,” he said.

marco-rubioFor his part, Senator Marco Rubio knows perfectly well what climate change is doing to his home state of Florida. But he finds it politically inconvenient to say so. So his strategy is to go into slippery spin mode.

Asked about climate change by ABC News’ Jonathan Karl, Rubio said:

“I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it … I do not believe that the laws that they propose we pass will do anything about it. Except it will destroy our economy.”

And since Karl didn’t press him on what he means by “the way these scientists are portraying it,” Rubio just kept spinning:

“I don’t agree with the notion that some are putting out there, including scientists, that somehow there are actions we can take today that would actually have an impact on what’s happening in our climate.”

Rubio has been practicing the art of spin for years, and he’s hoping his carefully-woven words will give him the wiggle room he’ll need on the campaign trail when he’s running for President. Here’s how he responded to GQ journalist Michael Hainey who asked him, in December 2012, how old he thinks the Earth is:

I’m not a scientist, man. I can tell you what recorded history says, I can tell you what the Bible says, but I think that’s a dispute amongst theologians and … I don’t think I’m qualified to answer a question like that … Whether the Earth was created in 7 days, or 7 actual eras, I’m not sure we’ll ever be able to answer that. It’s one of the great mysteries.

Well, sure, that’s what politicians do. They spin. But Rubio sits on the Committee on Commerce, Science and Transportation, and on the Subcommittee on Science and Space, and it’s really unlikely he believes the world was created in seven days.

If the truth is that he’ll say whatever it takes, how can anyone, Democrat or Republican, ever believe a word he says? Wouldn’t even the truest conservative prefer to have someone in the White House who tells the truth than who says he agrees with them?

At least Sen. Inhofe seems to believe the nonsense he spouts about how the climate isn’t changing. Rubio knows better.

So, which of them is more dangerous? On balance, I’d say Rubio.

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