Rawstory reports that in unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Secretary of Defense James Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.
Mattis is the only member of the Cabinet to assert that global warming is not only real but impacts United States and World security. His experience supports his assertion that climate change may the tipping point between peace and war. It is not that difficult a stretch.
He ties the dependence on fossil fuel to operations vulnerability. “…[our military] units would be faced with unacceptable limitations because of their dependence on fuel, and that I wanted to be able to push those limits further. Meanwhile, our efforts to resupply the force with fuel made us vulnerable in ways that were exploited by the enemy.
Did anyone hear that? Fuel trucks, carrying fossil fuel to keep our military equipment running and able to transport our troops to safety, are being blown-up by the enemy. No fuel. No escape. Our spouses, siblings, and children must sit tight, under siege, until and if other arrangements can be made. Mattis futher elaborated, “alternate and renewable energy sources that are reliable, cost effective, and can… better enable our primary mission to win in conflict..[and] … increase the readiness and reach of our forces.”
The White House remains unmoved. It’s not news to them. The Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG) “a voluntary, non-partisan group of 43 U.S.-based military, national security, homeland security, intelligence and foreign policy experts from a broad range of institutions. The CSAG is chaired by the Center for Climate and Security in partnership with the George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs. In the fall of 2016, the group released a briefing book calling on the next President and key cabinet members to “comprehensively address the security risks of climate change at all levels of national security planning.”
During President’s visit to Hampton Roads, March 1, 2017, he must have been updated about the effects of climate change. “Military efforts are already being affected by rising seas, storm surges and coastal erosion that threaten our critical infrastructure. A combination of sinking land surface and climate change has made the region, referred to once as “the greatest concentration of military might in the world,” experience the most rapid sea-level rise on the Atlantic Coast. Already, flooding from storms disrupts base operations and damages critical infrastructure. The Department of Defense is well-aware of the threat of climate change to DOD facilities including Naval Station Norfolk, and is working with the community, including environmental regulators, to stem the tide of this threat.”
Global warming has speeded up the drying out and desiccation of farm lands in the Mideast and Africa. The effect contributed significantly to the Syrian civil war.
From Climate Change News: “A new study published today in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences says drought in Syria, exacerbated to record levels by global warming, pushed social unrest in that nation across a line into an open uprising in 2011. The conflict has since become a major civil war with international involvement.
“Drying and drought in Syria from 2006 to 2011—the worst on record there—destroyed agriculture, causing many farm families to migrate to cities. The influx added to social stresses already created by refugees pouring in from the war in Iraq, explains Richard Seager, a climate scientist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory who co-authored the study. The drought also pushed up food prices, aggravating poverty. “We’re not saying the drought caused the war,” Seager said. “We’re saying that added to all the other stressors, it helped kick things over the threshold into open conflict. And a drought of that severity was made much more likely by the ongoing human-driven drying of that region.”
“Seager added that the entire Middle East “faces a drier, hotter climate due to climate change. This will stress water resources and agriculture, and will likely further increase risk of conflict.” Global warming is desiccating the region in two ways: higher temperatures that increase evaporation in already parched soils, and weaker winds that bring less rain from the Mediterranean Sea during the wet season (November to April).”
New Climate For Peace supports the above assertion. “The planet’s limited resources are under pressure. Demand for food, water, and energy is increasing. Widespread unemployment, rapid urbanization, and environmental degradation challenge efforts to reduce poverty and increase economic development in many poor countries. In fragile regions, persistent inequality, political marginalization, and unresponsive governments can increase the potential for instability and conflict. The addition of climate impacts will multiply these pressures and strain countries’ ability to meet their citizens’ needs.
“[Global warming will magnify factors that cause] … instability: Local resources competition, livelihood insecurity and migration, extreme weather events and disasters, volatile food prices and provision, transboundary water management, sea-level rise and costal degradation, and unintended consequences [above and beyond those listed].”
In effect, without lifting a finger, the White House will be responsible for the multiple conflicts that are already ready to erupt unless the President chooses to participate in a coordinated world effort to address the issues of global warning. The structure for cooperation is in place.
“EU and UN officials discussed climate change’s role as a “threat multiplier” — a term often used by the US military and Mattis’s predecessor, Chuck Hagel. Stronger storms, rising seas, drought, famine, and the migration these events cause could each be the spark to ignite many potential conflicts smoldering around the world, prompting wars and destabilizing governments.
Working on this issue is The G20, an international forum for the governments and central bank governors from Argentina, Australia, Brazil, Canada, China, France, Germany, India, Indonesia, Italy, Japan, Republic of Korea, Mexico, Russia, Saudi Arabia, South Africa, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States and the European Union. Together, G20 represents more than three quarters of the world’s GDP.
If the US refuses to listen, the plan was for he EU and China, the most influential members, to appeal directly to the President. Today, we know China is meeting with the President at Mar a Lago. Will it be to address branding or to bring the US on board with the G20?
Without US participation in the global warming resilience effort which includes Climate Change Adaptation plus Humanitarian Aid plus Peacebuilding and Conflict Prevention, the world will witness the collapse of economies and conflicts. They will not happen in a vacuum. This country will be affected. It won’t be good.
Despite all the evidence, President and the rest of his advisors and cabinet continue to deny climate change, and blindly support the fossil fuel industry. Their choice of greed will be the cause. The air and water are an international shared resource. The effect of the White House refusing to do their part to protect peoples all over the world will be an ineffectual response to crises as the happen, putting our soldiers and the region’s population in danger.
Thank you, Secretary of Defense James Mattis, for connecting the dots and pushing for a coordinated effort to keep our military, and the world, safer by reducing our dependence on fossil fuel.
Photo: Getty Images