Sunday, April 25, 2010

Climate change challenges US military

Kevin Furey in the Billings Gazette (Montana): As a veteran of the Iraq war, I make an effort to keep track of national-security news. That’s why I read with interest the stories about the Department of Defense’s recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, a congressionally mandated assessment of the strategic threats facing the U.S. now and in the future.

One of the conclusions in the QDR was both groundbreaking and sobering: Climate change will play a “significant role in shaping the future security environment,” and it will be an “accelerant of instability or conflict.” This is the first time the DOD has officially recognized climate change as a serious national security issue.

…Scientists predict that many natural disasters, such as hurricanes, floods and droughts, will be stronger, more common and pervasive because of climate change. A report by the U.N. Environment Program states that global warming will lead to “major changes in precipitation patterns on the (African) continent, which could lead to food shortages and increased desertification.” Another study identified India, Bangladesh, China, Vietnam and Indonesia as countries with large populations in low-lying coastal areas that are vulnerable to sea-level rise caused by global warming.

We will also face an increased risk of armed conflict. As retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni has put it, “It’s not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.” “We ignore these facts at the peril of our national security and at great risk to those in uniform who serve this nation,” said former U.S. Sen. John Warner, who now works with the Pew Project on National Security, Energy and Climate….

A US soldier from the Nemesis troop conceals himself with a smoke screen after an improvised explosive device hits one of his regiment's vehicles, October 2007, Baghdad, Iraq. Photo by Luke Thornberry

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