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Category — National Security

Even the Generals are Worried! Mission Creep, Climate Change, and National Security (Part 2)

This is part 2 of my post on a recent Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) briefing on climate change, energy and national security. Yesterday’s post made two main points:

(1) The strange-bedfellow coalition of defense hawks and eco-warriers is based not on sound national security arguments but on a convergence of political interests. For defense hawks, the alleged climate crisis facilitates mission creep by providing an open-ended rationale to expand DOD programs, activities, capabilities, and the appropriations to fund them. For green groups, partnership with defense and intelligence big wigs builds their already formidable lobbying machine and gives them cachet with conservatives who generally oppose government meddling in energy markets and Kyoto-style “global governance.”

(2) The PSA panelists exaggerate the security risks of climate change. The “history” of global warming, recent research on climate sensitivity, and even the Stern Review (properly understood) call into question the claim that climate change is an important “threat multiplier.”

In today’s post, I discuss the national security risks of climate change policy — a topic ignored in the PSA panel’s lop-sided briefing. 

One-Sided Threat Assessment

In testimony (p. 7) before a joint hearing (June 25, 2008) of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Dr. Thomas Fingar, Chairman of the National Council on Intelligence (NIC), stated that, “Government, business, and public efforts to develop mitigation and adaptation strategies to deal with climate change — from policies to reduce greenhouse gases to plans to reduce exposure to climate change or capitalize on potential impacts — may affect U.S. national security interests even more than the physical impacts of climate change itself.” 

Those words provoked the ire of Chairman Ed Markey (D-MA), who demanded to know who at Bush’s OMB inserted that verbiage into Fingar’s testimony. Finger assured Markey that the entire testimony, including the offending sentence, reflects the consensus view of the U.S. intelligence community, and that OMB offered no comments on that portion of the text. (Incidentally, Fingar’s testimony also said that climate change was “unlikely to trigger state failure in any state out through 2030,” and that “the United States as a whole would enjoy modest economic benefits over the next several decades largely due to increased crop yields.”)

Regrettably, Fingar’s testimony did not explain how climate policies  might affect U.S. national security interests “more than the physical impacts of climate change itself,” nor did he elaborate in the back-and-forth with Chairman Markey. In general, the global warming debate lacks balance, with climate change risks highlighted, exaggerated, or even invented, and climate policy risks denied or ignored.

Let’s then consider some of the ways climate policies might damage U.S. national security interests. [Read more →]

September 16, 2009   5 Comments

Even the Generals are Worried! Mission Creep, Climate Change, and National Security (Part 1)

Last week, I attended a briefing on “Climate Change, Energy and National Security,” sponsored by the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), a veritable who’s who of (mostly former) moderate-to-liberal defense and foreign policy officials. Sen. Joe Lieberman (I-CT), former CIA Director James Woolsey, Ambassador Frank Wisner, and Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn USN (Ret.) were the featured speakers.

The self-described “blue ribbon” panel was unanimous, unequivocal, and very, very repetitive: Climate change is a national security issue; climate change threatens all Americans; combatting climate change should be a national security priority; transitioning to a clean energy economy can defeat both the climate change threat and the OPEC/Wahhabi/Terror threat.

Not-So-Strange-Strange Bedfellows

In one respect it’s surprising that climate change has not always been characterized as a national security issue. If Al Gore is correct and climate change ”threatens the survival of civilization and the habitability of the Earth,” then of course climate change imperils national security. Yet for many years, there was little if any discussion along those lines — maybe because, traditionally, greenies looked askance at the “military-industrial complex” and vice versa.

If I’m not mistaken, the first thematic treatment linking global warming to national security was an October 2003 Pentagon-commissioned study by Peter Schwartz and Doug Randall titled Imagining the Unthinkable: An Abrupt Climate Change Scenario and Its Implications for United States National Security.

In Imagining the Unthinkable, the authors hypothesize what might happen to the global economy and international stability if increased ice melt and precipitation due to global warming disrupt the Atlantic thermohaline circulation (THC) and Earth’s climate deteriorates into an ice age. Would the end of the world as we know it have ”implications” for U.S. national security?

Well, duh! In page after pulse-pounding page, Schwartz and Randall describe a world convulsed by famine, food riots, water shortages, energy shortages, trade wars, displaced populations, and armed conflict within and among nations.

As it happens, the THC-shutdown scenario no longer has any scientific credibility – if it ever did (Schwartz and Randall conjecture that this catastrophe could occur as soon as 2010!). It’s not even clear that a disruption of the THC would have the climate-wrenching effects Schwartz and Randall assume. Al Gore, naturally, endorsed this doomsday fantasy in An Inconvenient Truth (2006), though he was not the first in the biz to bring it to the big screen. Warming-causes-cooling made its Hollywood debut two years earlier in The Day After Tomorrow (2004), a preachy, Sci-Fi disaster film justly lampooned by South Park.

Whether or not Imagining the Unthinkable marked a turning point in the rhetoric of climate change, the collaboration between defense hawks and climate Cassandras was inevitable. Many a hawk (going as far back as President Richard Nixon) has decried America’s dependence on OPEC oil, a condition destined to continue as long as oil dominates the market for motor fuels. Petro-phobic hawks are thus predisposed to believe that government should tax and regulate us into a ”clean energy future.” As much as any environmentalist, they seek a world ”beyond petroleum” – exactly what cap-and-traders claim they can deliver.

The greening of the Pentagon – or the Pentagoning of climate advocacy, label it as you like — has political advantages for both groups. Cap-and-trade advocates gain allies respected by conservatives who, in general, not only oppose greater government control over energy markets, but also distrust green activists, UN bureaucrats, and the “authentic global governance“ of which Kyoto is a key component.  ”Even the generals are worried,” the greens lecture reluctant conservatives. [Read more →]

September 15, 2009   15 Comments