Enemy of the state

If in recent years, global warming seemed like a “soft” issue that fell far behind other national priorities like war, the U.S. government is beginning to take it seriously. The effects of climate change are now being incorporated into national security strategy planning. The Department of Defense is using climate modeling to assess the security issues around climate change.

The New York Times reports that an increasing number of policy makers say that major storms, drought, pandemics, mass migration, rising seas and melting glaciers all pose “a direct threat to the national interest.” Environmental crises can turn into military ones, as competition for resources, such as food and water, encourage terrorist groups and destabilize regions, all of which could require American military or humanitarian response. Furthermore, climate change could harm military installations in various oceans that are vulnerable to rising seas, fierce storms and hurricanes, such as when the Homestead Air Force Base was practically destroyed by Hurricane Andrew in 1992. And as the ice cap melts, new shipping channels will open that will have to be defended.

The Times article quoted Gen. Anthony C. Zinni, a retired marine and former head of the Central Command, as having written in a report for a military advisory board, “We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.”

The article said the climate change and national security debate likely will be raised next month in the Senate as it discusses climate and energy legislation passed by the House in June.