Syfy Insider Exclusive

Create a free profile to get unlimited access to exclusive videos, sweepstakes, and more!

Sign Up For Free to View
SYFY WIRE Bad Astronomy

Sorry, President Trump, but climate change very much *is* a threat to national security

By Phil Plait

Yesterday, President Trump announced the new National Security Strategy, a document that outlines what the administration considers the major security concerns for the United States, as well as plans on how to deal with them.

However, the document revealed by Trump omits one of the most pressing national security threats there is: climate change.

I don't say this lightly, and I don't say it in a vacuum. Climate scientist Peter Gleick outlines this very fact in a thread he posted on Twitter, with copious links and references that nail this case down: Climate change is recognized globally as a huge security concern.

Navy Rear Admiral (retired) David Titley has stated very clearly that it's a threat to U.S. national security, and President Obama went as far, correctly, as to say that climate change denial is a threat to our security as well. Interestingly, current Secretary of Defense James Mattis — one of the very few people in Trump's administration who understands that climate change is real — has called it a threat to national security as well.

Scientists, politicians, strategists, and the intelligence community have all said the same thing as well. The reason is pretty simple: It is. Global warming and the change it's making in our climate are destabilizing environmental systems, countries, and economies all over the planet. It causes drought in one region and flooding in another. Agriculture will be and already is being profoundly affected. Natural disasters are being amplified — Hurricane Harvey's record rainfalls have been scientifically linked to climate change, and it’s been shown that the most powerful hurricanes are becoming stronger due to warming oceans. Rising sea levels due to Arctic and Antarctic ice melting threatens our coastlines, including the military bases there.

The Arctic is warming, and that means vast oil supplies that were locked under ice before are now becoming easier to access. Russian President Putin has been very clear that he covets those reserves, which contain as much as 1/5th the total undiscovered oil. China has an eye on them too. If that situation doesn't constitute a threat to our security, then nothing does.

Trump's omission of this enormous threat from his policy is as asinine as it is unsurprising; his policy since he was a presidential candidate is claiming climate change is some sort of hoax, though how and why he's never really stated. When he became president he put that (dis)belief into action, appointing climate science deniers to nearly every Cabinet position where science plays any kind of role. His actions in policy have reflected that denial as well.

It doesn't help that Obama put climate change front and center in his security strategy; Trump is bent on reversing every step forward Obama made.

I'll note that Trump's National Security Strategy document does mention climate, but in an Orwellian way:

Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system. U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.

This, to be blunt, is what you get out of the south end of a north-facing bull. Solar power and other alternative energy sources are not only economically viable, they create more jobs and industrial growth than fossil fuel. The developing world needs more solar power, not fossil fuels. And in fact, the burning of fossil fuels driving global warming is a bigger short- and long-term threat to these nations, through immediate pollution and the devastating changes we’re seeing in climate.

Ironically — and again, perhaps unsurprisingly, given how capricious this administration is — just last week Trump signed the National Defense Authorization Act, which does in fact recognize climate change as a threat to national security:

Sense Of Congress.—It is the sense of Congress that—

(1) climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States and is impacting stability in areas of the world both where the United States Armed Forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflict exist …

The Union of Concerned Scientists has more about this on its blog, too.

All this is part and parcel of Trump's attempts to shore up the fossil fuel industry even though the signs are clear that we need to aggressively pursue other sources of energy; despite claims by deniers that alternative sources of energy are only competitive to fossil fuels due to subsidies, it's actually the fossil fuels that enjoy vast support in terms of subsidies; a recent study shows that $5 trillion a year are used to shore up fossil fuel use globally.

The future is solar. In Texas — Texasit's clear that solar is overtaking oil as the main producer of energy. In 2016, solar power became cheaper to install and use than fossil fuel investment, and it continues to get cheaper.

We are at a cusp when it comes to our energy production, and our decisions right now will affect the future for generations … and we have a president who is so arrogantly denying reality that he will actually remove the enormous threat of climate change from his official security policy.

I take this personally — I live in the U.S., and on the Earth. I'm seeing these changes happen out my window, and I want to do what I can to help. For example, I'm getting solar panels installed on my house; I plan to write about that when they're installed this spring, and to talk about other measures I'm taking to reduce my carbon footprint.

There's a lot we all can do to help. Support climate scientists, for one, and listen to what they say (check who I follow on Twitter for a start). And Americans, when the time comes (like, say, November 6, 2018), vote. Do it like your life depends on it.

Because it does.