Under both Republican and Democratic Administrations, senior U.S. military, national security and foreign policy leaders have recognized the security risks of climate change, and urged a response that is commensurate to the threat. In this context, here is a compilation of key statements on the issue from current and past military, national security and foreign policy leaders. This is not a complete list, but it is a good reminder that climate change is far more than just an environmental concern.
General Joe Dunford, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff (November 2018)
“When we look at, when I look at, climate change, it’s in the category of sources of conflict around the world and things we have to respond to. So it can be great devastation requiring humanitarian assistance/ disaster relief, which the U.S. military certainly conducts routinely. In fact, I can’t think of a year since I’ve been on active duty that we haven’t conducted at least one operation in the Pacific along those lines due to extreme weather in the Pacific. And then, when you look at source of conflict – shortages of water, and those kind of things – those are all sources of conflict. So, it is very much something that we take into account in our planning as we anticipate when, where and how we may be engaged in the future and what capabilities we should have.”
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Installations, Energy, and Environment, Alex Beehler (August 2018)
“Absolutely. Echoing what General McMahon just said, and if confirmed, from my position I will do everything to encourage installations and help direct installations to properly prepare on a case by case basis for both adverse weather and effects long-term from climate. I understand that there is a report obligation coming out of the NDAA that was just passed that requires each of the services to do an assessment and a master plan impact. And if confirmed I will ensure that that effort of assessment and master plan impact is complete, comprehensive and delivered on time.”
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Sustainment, General Robert McMahon (August 2018)
“Senator, our military has faced weather extremes throughout its history, and the adverse impact of that we saw last year. But we’ve seen it as a military officer in the Southeast a number of times. Each year we prepared for the hurricanes that would come through. So, yes I agree with Secretary Mattis that weather can and does have an adverse effect on our ability to accomplish our mission. Risk mitigation is the preparation to ensure that we are ready for that. And if confirmed, I will continue to ensure that we are as ready as possible.”
“Asked what triggered the decision to revise the 2014 document now, Richardson said “the Arctic triggered it” – and Spencer added, “the damn thing melted.”
“The Arctic ice caps are as small as they’ve been in my lifetime,” Richardson said.
“And that gives rise to strategic changes. Waterways that are open. The secretary mentioned the blue-water Arctic. Continental shelves that are exposed, and the resources on those shelves. So there are strategic issues that arise from that shrinking of the icecap. And then there’s this National Defense Strategy that’s changed our focus as well. So it’s really, from a number of perspectives, about time to do that again.”
Commander of NORTHCOM and NORAD, General Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy (April 2018)
“Senator, it [the impact of climate change] absolutely does [create strategic challenges]. And certainly the Arctic, for example, just as you mention, the Northern Sea Route as an example, we see increased use and activity in the Arctic. I think from the NORTHCOM perspective and the NORAD perspective as well, if confirmed, I would certainly make the Arctic a priority. Because as we look to the future, look at the strategic competition we’re in, look at Russia and China, and their activities there, that is clearly something that we need to also be focused on.”
Air Force Director of Civil Engineers, Major General Timothy Green (April 2018)
“For Langley Air Force Base (AFB) which is in that same region, we’ve already raised the elevations of our new construction. We’ve already moved mechanical rooms and things like that from basements to higher elevations. So part of it’s just – as you said – prudent planning and I think that’s being done, both on the Navy side but certainly on the Air Force side. We are already altering how we do the engineering work to protect our facilities and our missions.”
Assistant Secretary of Defense (Energy, Installations & Environment), Hon. Lucian Niemeyer (April 2018)
“That’s the key step here. Right now, we’re taking a look at what needs to be done… what has been done. We’ve always responded to flood conditions. It’s part of what we’ve done as military engineers while we look at preserving our military capabilities across the country. We’ll continue to do that in the Hampton Roads area, in Virginia Beach. Where we can make good decisions about how high we raise a dry dock or how high we raise a dam. Those are all engineering decisions that we make every day. And we’ll continue to make those as we see conditions change around the country…”
“…So we are looking at adjustments to what our engineering forecasts are and to what degree we can start planning now. And just making prudent engineering decisions across the board. To be able to make our facilities resilient to whatever may happen. It could be a lot of things that ultimately could affect environmental conditions and affect our facilities. The goal is resiliency across the board.”
AFRICOM Commander, General Thomas D. Waldhauser, USMC (Ret), (March 2018)
“Senator, some of the numbers you stated are certainly overwhelming. And when it comes to the African continent, unfortunately those numbers are sometimes the order of the day. Last year, for example, in Somalia there were over 6 million people who were food insecure. This year it’s going to be around 5 million people. And that’s just in that region.
I would say from the climate perspective, is that we have seen the Sahel – the grasslands of the Sahel – recede and become desert almost a mile per year in the last decade or so. This has a significant impact on the herders who have to fight, if you will, for grasslands and water holes and the like.
So these environmental challenges put pressure on these different organizations — some are VEO [violent extremist organizations], some are criminal, but it puts pressure on these organizations just for their own livelihood.
So, consequently, in areas like northern Mali, ISIS West Africa and the northern part of Niger, these are areas that are a very concern to us. And this is why we’re trying to work so closely with those countries there, so that they can maintain security, that they can keep it, at a minimum, keep these challenges inside those particular boundaries. But there are some significant challenges, and the numbers sometimes in Africa can overwhelm you.
Air Force Vice Chief of Staff, General Stephen Wilson (February 2018)
“This last year was a great example. So we were fighting [forest] fires in California and using our C-130s to help fight those. We did the floods here, the hurricanes both in Texas as well as Florida, and as the ones came up the East Coast affecting bases like Langley. So everything we look at in terms of infrastructure we have to look at through the lens of ‘how would I build and design infrastructure that would support changes in climate.’ I think that and energy resiliency across our bases to be able to – as the Army just talked about – partner with local communities because our bases are our power projection platforms. So we got to make sure they are energy resilient.”
Vice Chief of Naval Operations, Admiral Bill Moran (February 2018)
“I attended a briefing by the Naval Academy here recently and they were looking out 30 years at the flood plains and the sea wall associated with the Chesapeake Bay and the Severn River. It was a pretty stark demonstration of what could happen if we don’t take some action in the next 30 years to address that rise in water level. As you know, General Walters and I, we share bases, pretty much waterfront property all over the world, so if the oceans are going to rise we’re going to be impacted everywhere. So, it does demand kind of a comprehensive look at all of our bases, especially in those areas that you already cited, in Hampton Roads, Florida, on the West Coast in San Diego, etc, so we are going to look at that very hard in the next several years.”
Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, General Glenn Walters (February 2018)
“Yes, Sir, we are a waterfront organization also. We have come to the conclusion that we’re not going to turn the tide, but we are looking at it closely. I’ve taken, in this job that I’m in right now, I’ve taken two briefs in the last eight months on what I consider our most critical vulnerability, and that’s Parris Island, South Carolina. Our logistics folks at I&L, our Deputy Commandant for I&L has done extensive work and studies, and projected out what’s the best case, what’s the worst case, and obviously there’s a big variance in there. But what I do know is that we’ll eventually have to bolster that. I’ve come to the conclusion in my own mind that it’s not today – we don’t have to build a sea wall today. But we have to consider one, and we’re monitoring it every day as we watch that. Because you remember that started out as a marsh and a little bit of an island. So marshes turn into seawater, and land turns into marsh.”
Army Vice Chief of Staff, General James McConville (February 2018)
“We look at some of the hazards that have happened over the last couple of…I mean, the hurricane. We had three major hurricanes. We have installations, camp post installations really in all those type [of] areas. So they certainly affect us. We got fires in certain parts of the country – that certainly affects where our post is. The flooding is certainly there. We are building some resilience. You know, an example right now – we are building, in partnership, at Schofield Barracks, a power plant in conjunction with the local area so, it’ll be used – we don’t necessarily need it – but if there’s a situation where the power goes out, we’ll have that capability, resilience. It’s a public-private partnership which I think is a good way to get after, and they seem very excited about that partnership that’s going on there…(Sen. Kaine interjection: ‘Excellent, so that’s a shared investment that’s being done by both DoD and the local community?) Gen McConville: It’s actually the community that’s actually paying for it, but we’re allowing them to use the land, and then if something happens where we lose power, we have first dibs on the power. And it’s on the grid right now, but if something happens serious, then we have the opportunity to use it.”
Director of National Intelligence, Dan Coats (2018, 2017)
“Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution, inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable. Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult—especially for democracies—as publics become less trusting of authoritative information sources.”
“Environment and Climate Change
The impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss, and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent—and possibly upheaval—through 2018.
- The past 115 years have been the warmest period in the history of modern civilization, and the past few years have been the warmest years on record. Extreme weather events in a warmer world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages. Research has not identified indicators of tipping
points in climate-linked earth systems, suggesting a possibility of abrupt climate change.
- Worsening air pollution from forest burning, agricultural waste incineration, urbanization, and rapid industrialization—with increasing public awareness—might drive protests against authorities, such as those recently in China, India, and Iran.
- Accelerating biodiversity and species loss—driven by pollution, warming, unsustainable fishing, and acidifying oceans—will jeopardize vital ecosystems that support critical human systems. Recent estimates suggest that the current extinction rate is 100 to 1,000 times the natural extinction rate.
- Water scarcity, compounded by gaps in cooperative management agreements for nearly half of the world’s international river basins, and new unilateral dam development are likely to heighten tension between countries.”
“Environmental Risks and Climate Change
The trend toward a warming climate is forecast to continue in 2017. The UN World Meteorological Organization (WMO) is warning that 2017 is likely to be among the hottest years on record—although slightly less warm than 2016 as the strong El Nino conditions that influenced that year have abated. The US National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) and the National Aeronautics and Space
Administration (NASA) reported that 2016 was the hottest year since modern measurements began in 1880. This warming is projected to fuel more intense and frequent extreme weather events that will be distributed unequally in time and geography. Countries with large populations in coastal areas are particularly vulnerable to tropical weather events and storm surges, especially in Asia and Africa.
Global air pollution is worsening as more countries experience rapid industrialization, urbanization, forest burning, and agricultural waste incineration, according to the World Health Organization (WHO). An estimated 92 percent of the world’s population live in areas where WHO air quality standards are not met, according to 2014 information compiled by the WHO. People in low-income cities are most affected, with the most polluted cities located in the Middle East, Asia, and Africa. Public dissatisfaction with air quality might drive protests against authorities, such as those seen in recent years in China, India, and Iran.
Heightened tensions over shared water resources are likely in some regions. The dispute between Egypt and Ethiopia over the construction of the massive Grand Ethiopian Renaissance Dam (GERD) on the Nile is likely to intensify because Ethiopia plans to begin filling the reservoir in 2017.
Global biodiversity will likely continue to decline due to habitat loss, overexploitation, pollution, and invasive species, according to a study by a nongovernmental conservation organization, disrupting ecosystems that support life, including humans. Since 1970, vertebrate populations have declined an estimated 60 percent, according to the same study, whereas populations in freshwater systems declined more than 80 percent. The rate of species loss worldwide is estimated at 100 to 1,000 times higher than the natural background extinction rate, according to peer-reviewed scientific literature.
We assess national security implications of climate change but do not adjudicate the science of climate change. In assessing these implications, we rely on US government-coordinated scientific reports, peerreviewed literature, and reports produced by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), which is the leading international body responsible for assessing the science related to climate change.”
Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Installations, Energy, and the Environment, Phyllis L. Bayer (January 2018)
“Yes, if confirmed, I will ensure the Department identifies those bases most at-risk [from climate change] and develops the measures necessary to mitigate those risks.”
Assistant Secretary of the Air Force for Installations, Environment, and Energy, John Henderson (January 2018)
“Yes, I agree with Secretary Mattis’ assessment that a changing climate can impact our installations. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Air Force continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”
The Department of Defense releases a personnel survey report showing climate change-related risks to 50% of military infrastructure (January 2018)
The President signs into law the FY2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which includes in “SEC. 335. REPORT ON EFFECTS OF CLIMATE CHANGE ON DEPARTMENT
OF DEFENSE” a recognition that climate change presents a direct threat to national security, and requests a report from the DoD on how climate change affects its overall mission – including the top ten most climate-vulnerable military sites (December 2017)
Assistant Secretary of the Army for Civil Works, R.D. James (November 2017)
“As an engineer and after years as a member of the Mississippi River Commission, working with multiple Civil Works water resource projects designed to perform under extreme climatic conditions, I believe it is critical that we look at hydrologic data, analyze hydrologic trends, and understand what is happening on the ground at Army Civil Works projects. That kind of understanding is crucial to assuring those projects continue to perform as designed and that they are sufficiently resilient to face whatever future climatic events may occur…Because most Army Civil Works projects are specifically designed to safely perform and reduce risk under the extremes of the hydrologic cycle, from extreme floods to prolonged drought and everywhere in between, I believe we owe it to the communities, industries and economic sectors that depend on Civil Works systems to assure those systems are sufficiently resilient in order to dependably perform regardless of what future climatic conditions are presented.”
The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) issues its report “Climate Change Adaptation: DoD Needs to Better Incorporate Adaptation into Planning and Collaboration at Overseas Installations.” (November 2017)
Chief of the National Guard Bureau, General Joseph Lengyel (September 2017)
“I do think that the climate is changing, and I do think that it is becoming more severe…I do think that storms are becoming bigger, larger, more violent. You know, I never know if this one speck of time is an anomaly or not, but, you know, we’ve all seen now three Category 5 storms that popped out in a period of a month.”
“It impacts me because the National Guard does provide — we are the military domestic response force. We keep that as part of our job jar…For us to do that job, we have to have some force structure that’s located were the events might happen. So whether that’s in Oklahoma, where you have a lot of tornadoes, or whether that’s in the northwest, where you have a lot of fires, or whether that’s in the Gulf or along the East Coast, we need force structure that is in all 50 states, the territories and the District of Columbia, so that we can respond…It doesn’t work for me to put all of our forces on one base in any particular state.”
Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Paul J. Selva (July 2017)
“The dynamics that are happening in our climate will drive uncertainty and will drive conflict. And I’ll just provide one example of how that can happen and this is a man-made problem. The dams along the Nile River control the flow of water into what was the Fertile Crescent of Egypt, and any change to that water flow causes the Egyptians to become more hostile to their neighbors who are putting dams upstream of the Egyptian stretch of the Nile River. I could build that argument in a variety of countries around the world, and those are man-made problems not directly related to climate change but related to how we as humans change our environment. If you extend that argument to the kinds of things that might happen if we see tidal rises, if we see increasing weather patterns of drought and flood and forest fires and other natural events that happen inside of our environment, then we’re gonna have to be prepared for what that means in terms of the potential for instability in regions of the country where those impacts happen. Particularly today where there’s massive food instability. The Sahel in Africa is a classic example, where a small drought over a limited period of time can decimate the crops and cause instability and make that an area fertile for recruitment of extremists because they see no other way. Similarly you could look at the decimation of the fisheries off Somalia that contributed to piracy because the fishermen couldn’t make their livelihood by doing what they do best, which is fishing on the fishing grounds off of Somalia. So I think we need to be prepared for those. It will cause us to have to address questions like humanitarian disaster relief. It will also cause us to have to focus on places where climate instability might cause actual political instability in regions of the world we hadn’t previously had to pay attention to…”
Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment (IE&E), Lucian L. Niemeyer (July 2017)
“Yes, the climate plays a pivotal role in DoD’s ability to execute our missions. The
Department has always considered risks from climate related effects such as high winds, precipitation, extreme temperatures and drought to mission readiness and execution. As Secretary Mattis has stated “the Department should be prepared to mitigate any consequences of a changing climate, including ensuring that our shipyards and installations will continue to function as required.”
“I agree that the Department must be prepared for extreme weather, but in the long run DoD must plan now to ensure it can meet future mission requirements to remain a ready and resilient fighting force. If confirmed, I will work with the Military Departments to ensure our facilities and installation plans appropriately consider the impact of a changing climate.”
“If confirmed, I will ensure that the comprehensive threat assessment and
implementation master plan [on the risks and vulnerabilities to Department missions and infrastructure associated with climate-related events] is submitted to Congress in a timely manner.”
“Secretary Mattis has passed on the desire to want to make sure that we’re incorporating what’s going on around the world with climate change into our operational plans, and I fully plan to support that, and to what extend we can prepare domestically as well for what’s happening with the climate and the environment.”
Secretary of the Navy, Richard Spencer (July 2017)
“Q: Mr. Spencer, do you believe the climate is changing and that climate change will continue to affect the Navy’s installations and missions?
Spencer: Senator, the Navy, from my briefings to date, is totally aware of the rising water issue, storm issues, et cetera. We must protect our infrastructure, and I will work hard to make sure we are keeping an eye on that because without the infrastructure, we lose readiness.
Q: So I take that as a yes?
Spencer: Yes, all about readiness.
Q: And, if confirmed, under your leadership will the Navy prepare for climate change? I think this is where you are going about readiness. And I want to say that both in terms of repairing our own bases and installations and preparing for the crisis and the insecurity that climate change will exacerbate around the world.
Spencer: Yes, Senator.”
Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis, USMC (Ret) (March, 2017)
“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today. It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”
“Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”
“As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”
“I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”
Secretary of Defense, Dr. Ashton Carter (2016, 2015)
Jan 2017: “The Department published a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, focused on acknowledging and managing the risks inherent in climate change — both its nature as an instability accelerant in many parts of the world and the danger it poses to our own enterprise such as sea-level rise and flooding at coastal bases or drought in the southwest. As described in the President’s memorandum on Climate Change and National Security, the impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities. Our actions to increase energy and water security, including investments in energy efficiency, new technologies, and renewable energy sources, will increase the resiliency of our installations and help mitigate these effects. Already, the Department has reduced energy usage at contingency bases by 30 percent, is on track to meet its commitment of 3 gigawatts of renewable energy purchases at our bases by 2025, and has executed more than $1.8 billion in Energy Savings Performance Contracts.”
June 2016: “Through a principled security network, we can all meet the challenges we’re facing together – whether it’s Russia’s worrying actions, North Korea’s nuclear and missile provocations, the threat posed by extremists groups, or the growing strategic impact of climate change. These challenges and others are real for all of us who live in the Asia-Pacific. But so are the opportunities: for nations, for militaries, and for the people of the Asia-Pacific.”
March 2016: “[Question on what DoD is doing to address climate change] It’s a good question. It’s a good question and it’s a serious concern. I think if the question is what is the Department of Defense doing per se, we are a carbon emitter but not a driver of that. We are doing things both in the name of efficiency, as well as carbon footprint like everybody else is. More efficient buildings, more efficient fuel engines, more efficient jet engines which also have a greater thrust weight and other things that are important to us from a military point of view. But climate change does have strategic implications for us. So another question in addition to the question asked is “What are you doing to adapt and how is that affecting us?” We don’t have a whole lot of effect on it, but it does have an effect on us. I mean, one thing it is doing is opening up the Arctic, which is already causing people to jockey and position. And I was talking about freedom of navigation and I mentioned the South China Sea, which happens to be a place everybody’s focused on today. But don’t forget that the reason to stick up for freedom of navigation is it’s everywhere. Straits of Hormuz, Arctic Ocean, Strait of Malacca, South China Sea, all of that is an important part of the human future. And we’re seeing change, climate change in the Arctic, and it’s having a strategic effect on us. It also has an effect on sea levels which, well, particularly for Pacific islanders and everything has a material effect on them. Patterns of climate affect human security because they cause people to move and famines to occur and things like that have security implications. What happens around the world does change the general environment for security so it does have implications for us very much. We watch all that very closely and try to make adaptations where we can.”
May 2015: “As the challenge of climate change looms larger, natural disasters not only threaten lives, but also upset trade and economic growth. And at the same time, terrorism, foreign fighters, cyber attacks and trafficking in both people and narcotics plague this region like any other.”
Director of National Intelligence, James Clapper (2016, 2015, 2014, 2013)
Oct 2016: “It certainly is [climate change is a national security issue]. We’re seeing this already, the effects of climate on national security issues with things like availability of water, or food, or energy. And this increasingly, I believe, is going to play a big part in our national security landscape in the future.”
Sept 2016: “In the coming decades, an underlying meta-driver of unpredictable instability will be, I believe, climate change. Major population centers will compete for ever-diminishing food and water resources and governments will have an increasingly difficult time controlling their territories. And so because of all of these factors, after ISIL’s gone, we can expect some other terrorist entity to arise and a cycle of extremism which will continue to control us for the foreseeable future. And by the way, our more traditional adversaries like Russia and China and Iran and North Korea will continue to challenge us.”
“I do think climate change is going to be an underpinning for a lot of national security issues. The effect on climate, which drives so many things ‐‐ availability of basics like water and food, and other resources, which are increasingly going to become matters of conflict, and already are, between and among countries. And so this is going to give rise to national security insight that we’ll need to understand this and hopefully help anticipate it. So I think climate change over time is going to have a (inaudible) effect on our national security picture.”
Feb 2016: “Unpredictable instability has become the “new normal,” and this trend will continue for the foreseeable future…Extreme weather, climate change, environmental degradation, rising demand for food and water, poor policy decisions and inadequate infrastructure will magnify this instability.”
Feb 2015: “Extreme weather, climate change, and public policies that affect food and water supplies will probably create or exacerbate humanitarian crises and instability risks. Globally averaged surface temperature rose approximately 0.8 degrees Celsius (about 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit) from 1951 to 2014; 2014 was warmest on earth since recordkeeping began. This rise in temperature has probably caused an increase in the intensity and frequency of both heavy precipitation and prolonged heat waves and has changed the spread of certain diseases. This trend will probably continue. Demographic and development trends that concentrate people in cities—often along coasts—will compound and amplify the impact of extreme weather and climate change on populations. Countries whose key systems—food, water, energy, shelter, transportation, and medical—are resilient will be better able to avoid significant economic and human losses from extreme weather.”
“Infectious diseases are among the foremost health security threats. A more crowded and interconnected world is increasing the opportunities for human and animal diseases to emerge and spread globally. This has been demonstrated by the emergence of Ebola in West Africa on an unprecedented scale. In addition, military conflicts and displacement of populations with loss of basic infrastructure can lead to spread of disease. Climate change can also lead to changes in the distribution of vectors for diseases (emphasis added).”
Jan, 2014: “Risks to freshwater supplies due to shortages, poor quality, floods, and climate change are growing. These forces will hinder the ability of key countries to produce food and generate energy, potentially undermining global food markets and hobbling economic growth. As a result of demographic and economic development pressures, North Africa, the Middle East, and South Asia particularly will particularly face difficulty coping with water problems. Lack of adequate water is a destabilizing factor in developing count ries that do not have the management mechanisms, financial resources, or technical ability to solve their internal water problems.”
March, 2013: “Terrorists, militants and international crime groups are certain to use declining local food security to gain legitimacy and undermine government authority. Intentional introduction of a livestock or plant disease could be a greater threat to the United States and the global food system than a direct attack on food supplies intended to kill humans. So there will almost assuredly be security concerns with respect to health and pandemics, energy and climate change. Environmental stresses are not just humanitarian issues. They legitimately threaten regional stability.”
Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel (2014, 2013)
October 2014: “We see an Arctic that is melting, meaning that most likely a new sea lane will emerging…We know that there are significant minerals and natural deposits of oil and natural gas there. That means that nations will compete for those natural resources.”
May 2014: “Just today, the nation¹s top scientists released a National Climate Assessment that warns in very stark terms that the effects of climate change are already becoming quite apparent. One area where we see this is in the Arctic. The melting of gigantic ice caps presents possibilities for the opening of new sea lanes and the exploration for natural resources, energy, and commerce, and also the dangerous potential for conflict in the Arctic.”
April 2014: “…the United States military will continue to build new types of partnerships that tackle non-traditional security challenges more effectively. The military presence we maintain in the Pacific – including approximately 330,000 personnel, 180 ships, 2,000 aircraft, the 3rd Marine Expeditionary Force and five Army brigades – provides unparalleled capabilities. But the kind of non-traditional security challenges that pose a growing threat to stability in the region, such as climate change, natural disasters and pandemic disease, cannot be resolved through military efforts alone. They require strong partnerships across military and civilian agencies, and with the private sector and non-governmental organizations. That’s why I am pleased that USAID Administrator Rajiv Shah will lead one of our sessions in Hawaii.”
Nov 2013: “But the challenge of global climate change, while not new to history, is new to the modern world. Climate change does not directly cause conflict, but it can significantly add to the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. Food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, more severe natural disasters – all place additional burdens on economies, societies, and institutions around the world. Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines is a reminder of humanitarian disaster brought on by nature. And climatologists warn us of the increased probability of more destructive storms to come.”
“Planning for climate change and smarter energy investments not only make us a stronger military, they have many additional benefits – saving us money, reducing demand, and helping protect the environment.”
“Climate change is shifting the landscape in the Arctic more rapidly than anywhere else in the world…Over the long-term, as global warming accelerates, Arctic ice melt will lead to a sea level rise that will likely threaten coastal populations around the world.”
National Security Advisor, Susan Rice (April, 2014)
“Climate change is now well understood to be a major national security issue and a source of stress on a number of the underlying causes of conflict. Drought, floods, food shortages, water scarcity, all of these drive increased human insecurity, poverty and can contribute to conflict…we all know that where there is drought, where there is insecurity, when there is poverty, hunger, poor governance, repressive policies, it may make the tinder in the box more readily ignitable.”
Commander, U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Samuel Locklear (2013)
Nov 2015: (Retired) “As we seek to rebalance and reinvigorate our historic alliances, build new strategic and economic partnerships, and effectively posture our military in the Asia-Pacific for the 21st century, we must address the potentially catastrophic security implications of climate change in the Asia-Pacific and their likely impact on U.S. interests in the region.”
April 2013: (Senate testimony): “In the Indo-Asia Pacific region, as we go from about—projections are we’re going to go from about 7 billion people in the world to about 9 or 10 by the century, and about 70 percent of them are going to live in this part of the world…About 80 percent of them today live within about 200 miles of the coast, and that trend is increasing as people move towards the economic centers which are near the ports and facilities that support globalization. So we’re seeing that trend of people moving into littoral areas….We are also seeing—if you go to USAID and you ask the numbers for my PACOM AOR how many people died due to natural disasters from 2008 to 2012, it was about 280,000 people died. Now, they weren’t all climate change or weather-related, but a lot of them were due to that. About 800,000 people were displaced and there was about $500 billion of lost productivity. So when I look and I think about our planning and I think about what I have to do with allies and partners and I look long-term, it’s important that the countries in this region build the capabilities into their infrastructure to be able to deal with the types of things that—”
March 2013 (Interview regarding climate change in the Asia-Pacific): Significant upheaval related to the warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about…People are surprised sometimes…You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17…The ice is melting and sea is getting higher…I’m into the consequence management side of it. I’m not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they’re contemplating moving their entire population to another country because [it] is not going to exist anymore…We have interjected into our multilateral dialogue – even with China and India – the imperative to kind of get military capabilities aligned [for] when the effects of climate change start to impact these massive populations…If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.’’
March 2013: “While the Indo-Asia Pacific today is relatively at peace, I am concerned by a number of security challenges that have the possibility to impact the security environment…Examples include, climate change, where increasingly severe weather patterns and rising sea levels, along with inevitable earthquakes and tsunamis’ and super-typhoons, and massive flooding threaten today and will continue to threaten populations in the future in this region.”
Secretary of State, John Kerry (2015, 2014, 2013)
Nov 2015: “The reason I made climate change a priority is not simply because climate change is bad for the environment. It’s because by fueling extreme weather events undermining our military readiness, exacerbating conflicts around the world, climate change is a threat to the security of the United States and, indeed, to the security and civility of countries everywhere.”
Feb 2014: “When I think about the array of global climate – of global threats – think about this: terrorism, epidemics, poverty, the proliferation of weapons of mass destruction – all challenges that know no borders – the reality is that climate change ranks right up there with every single one of them.”
May 2013: “And at the top of that list of shared challenges which does not get enough attention…a principal challenge to all of us of life and death proportions is the challenge of climate change…So it’s not just an environmental issue and it’s not just an economic issue. It is a security issue, a fundamental security issue that affects life as we know it on the planet itself, and it demands urgent attention from all of us.”
National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon (April, 2013)
“The national security impacts of climate change stem from the increasingly severe environmental impacts it is having on countries and people around the world…The fact that the environmental impacts of climate change present a national security challenge has been clear to this Administration from the outset.”
Former Secretary of State, George Shultz (March, 2013)
“There are huge changes that are in the works if we don’t moderate what’s going on. Changes in heat levels. Some places can get very, very hot, and we’ve already experienced some of that. Even Vladimir Putin got out of Moscow a couple summers ago. So you’ve got that problem…I’m a marine, and during World War II I flew over the Pacific, and we flew over those islands, and they’re just little islands out there in the ocean…So you can create conditions that lead people to want to fight about things. If I suddenly find that I am losing all my land, I want to get somebody else’s.”
Former Assistant to the President for Homeland Security and Secretary of Homeland Security under President George W. Bush, Tom Ridge (R-PA) (February, 2013)
“The U.S. national security community, including leaders from the military, homeland security, and intelligence, understand that climate change is a national security threat… They’re not talking about whether or not it is occurring – it is… They’re talking about addressing the problem and protecting the American people. It’s time Washington does the same.”
Secretary of Homeland Security (2013, 2012)
Aug 2013: “And you will face new challenges that we have begun to address but that need further attention…You also will have to prepare for the increasing likelihood of more weather-related events of a more severe nature as a result of climate change, and continue to build the capacity to respond to potential disasters in far flung regions of the country that could occur at the same time.”
July 2012: “You have to look at climate change over a period of years, not just one summer…You could always have one abnormal summer. But when you see one after another after another then you can see, yeah, there’s a pattern here.”
Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta (May, 2012)
“Our mission at the Department is to secure this nation against threats to our homeland and to our people. In the 21st Century, the reality is that there are environmental threats which constitute threats to our national security. For example, the area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security: rising sea levels, to severe droughts, to the melting of the polar caps, to more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.”
Commander of U.S. European Command, Admiral James G. Stavridis, USN (ret) (March, 2012)
“Climate change in the Arctic makes it one of the world’s most rapidly changing environments. As the volume of Arctic sea ice decreases, access continues to increase permitting maritime traffic into areas previously impassable without specialized vessels. This new access is creating opportunities for transit, development, and natural resource extraction. While some see these changes as a potential breeding ground for conflict, we see the risk of armed conflict as low, and continue to approach the Arctic as an area of cooperation among Arctic nations.”
Commander of U.S. Pacific Command, Admiral Robert F. Willard, USN (ret) (February, 2012)
“The U.S. alliance with Australia anchors USPACOM’s strategy in Oceania. Australia, with additional contributions from New Zealand, invests extensively in security and assistance efforts in this sub-region. The Australian continent notwithstanding, most of Oceania is comprised of Pacific Island nations spread across the vast expanse of the South Pacific Ocean. Security challenges associated with natural resources in this sub-region tend to predominate. In particular, illegal fishing, resource damage attributed to climate change and global warming, and the susceptibility of low lying island nations to typhoons and tsunamis define USPACOM and U.S. Coast Guard approaches to engagement in Oceania, often in concert with Australian and New Zealand actions.”
U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations, Susan Rice (July, 2011)
“In this Council we have discussed many emerging security issues and addressed them, from the links between development and security to HIV-AIDS. Yet this week, we have been unable to reach consensus on even a simple Presidential Statement that climate change has the potential to impact peace and security in the face of the manifest evidence that it does. We have dozens of countries in this body and in this very room whose very existence is threatened. They’ve asked this Council to demonstrate our understanding that their security is profoundly threatened. Instead, because of the refusal of a few to accept our responsibility, this Council is saying, by its silence, in effect, “Tough luck.” This is more than disappointing. It’s pathetic. It’s shortsighted, and frankly it’s a dereliction of duty.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Michael Mullen, USN (ret) (October, 2010)
“The scarcity of and potential competition for resources like water, food and space, compounded by an influx of refugees if coastal lands are lost, does not only create a humanitarian crisis but creates conditions of hopelessness that could lead to failed states and make populations vulnerable to radicalization. These challenges highlight the systemic implications and multiple-order effects inherent in energy security and climate change.”
Former Commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command under President George W. Bush, Admiral John Nathman, USN (ret) (October, 2009)
“There are serious risks to doing nothing about climate change. We can pay now or we’re going to pay a whole lot later. The U.S. has a unique opportunity to become energy independent, protect our national security and boost our economy while reducing our carbon footprint. We’ve been a model of success for the rest of the world in the past and now we must lead the way on climate change.”
Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates (July, 2008)
“We also know that over the next 20 years and more, certain pressures—population, resource, energy, climate, economic, and environmental—could combine with rapid cultural, social, and technological change to produce new sources of deprivation, rage, and instability…But, overall, looking ahead, I believe the most persistent and potentially dangerous threats will come less from ambitious states, than failing ones that cannot meet the basic needs—much less the aspirations—of their people.”
Chairman of the National Intelligence Council, Thomas Fingar (June, 2008)
“We judge global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years … We judge that the most significant impact for the United States will be indirect and result from climate-driven effects on many other countries and their potential to seriously affect US national security interests.”
Former CIA Director, James Woolsey (June, 2008)
“The combination of 9/11, concern about climate change, and $4 a gallon gasoline has brought a lot of people together. I call it the coalition of the tree-huggers, the do-gooders, the cheap hawks, the evangelicals, and the mom and pop drivers. All of those groups have good reasons to be interested in moving away from oil dependence.”
Commander of the United States Army Materiel Command under President George W. Bush, General Paul Kern, USA (ret) (April, 2007)
“Military planning should view climate change as a threat to the balance of energy access, water supplies, and a healthy environment, and it should require a response.”
Former Army Chief of Staff, General Gordon Sullivan, USA (ret) (April, 2007)
“Climate change is a national security issue. We found that climate instability will lead to instability in geopolitics and impact American military operations around the world.”
Former NASA administrator Vice Admiral Richard Truly, USN (ret) (April, 2007)
“The stresses that climate change will put on our national security will be different than any we’ve dealt with in the past.”
Former Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command, General Anthony Zinni, USMC (ret) (April, 2007)
“You may also have a population that is traumatized by an event or a change in condi- tions triggered by climate change,” Gen. Zinni said. “If the government there is not able to cope with the effects, and if other institutions are unable to cope, then you can be faced with a collapsing state. And these end up as breed- ing grounds for instability, for insurgencies, for warlords. You start to see real extremism. These places act like Petri dishes for extremism and for terrorist networks.”
Former Secretary of Defense, then-Senator Chuck Hagel (March, 2007)
According to Andrew Holland at the American Security Project: “Hagel was an original cosponsor of S.1018 in the 110th Congress, which required the Director of National intelligence to submit to Congress a National Intelligence Estimate on the anticipated geopolitical effects of global climate change and the implications of such effects on the national security. This legislation found that “The consequences of global climate change represent a clear and present danger to the security and economy of the United States.” The legislation was included as an amendment to the Committee-passed FY08 Intelligence Authorization, but was removed before passage on the Senate floor due to opposition in the Senate.”