The President explains that new Coast Guard graduates will have to factor in the effects of global warming to their plans and operations.
President Obama has been advocating action against climate change since 2008. He has framed the issue as a matter of health, of environmental protection, and of international obligation. Yesterday, Obama took a step further saying that climate change threatened national security.
“No nation is immune,” said Obama in a commencement speech at the Coast Guard Academy. “So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country.”
The commander-in-chief went so far as to say that failure to combat climate change would be a “dereliction of duty”.
It was a bright sunny day in New London, Connecticut as 218 graduates prepared to start their active military service.
Obama cited some examples of the trouble extreme weather conditions had on military preparedness. “Around Norfolk [Virginia], high tides and storms increasingly flood parts of our Navy base and an air base,” said Obama. “In Alaska, thawing permafrost is damaging military facilities. Out West, deeper droughts and longer wildfires could threaten training areas our troops depend on.”
The president then outlined the litany of threats to national security caused by climate change. The range of effects by increased global temperatures was vast and daunting.
There will be more humanitarian crises caused by natural disasters, worsening conflicts over food and water, and increased flows of refugees. “So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services – including the Coast Guard – will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready,” said Obama.
Rising oceans threaten the US economy as well as our national infrastructure. “Climate change, and especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people,” Obama said. “Already, today, in Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide. Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable.”
And in general, climate change will exasperate poverty and joblessness leading to increased political instability, violence, and loss of social cohesion. In some cases, like Nigeria and Syria, these effects are already being seen.
“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us,” the president said. “It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term.”