Military Leaders: Climate Change is a Threat to National Security
FCNL developed this resource to illustrate the support in the military for the idea that climate change will create conflict and pose a national security threat to the United States. This information was based on a Media Matters story and was compiled by Hannah Solomon-Strauss, program assistant for sustainable energy and the environment.
Revised September 2012.
Roger Sorkin, a fellow at the Truman National Security Project, is the director of "The Burden," whose preview is below. The Burden is the first feature-length documentary to tell the story of how fossil fuel dependence threatens national security, and how the U.S. military is able to bolster a clean energy economy that will strengthen our national, economic, and environmental security.
Climate experts have been arguing that climate change has the potential to create and exacerbate violent conflict as resource scarcity becomes more severe. The United States military agrees. In their own words, here are the statements of fifteen military leaders, active and retired, on the role of climate in creating conflict.
Former Chairman, National Intelligence Council
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.
Brig. General Steven Anderson (ret.)
Former Chief of Logistics under General Petraeus
Our oil addiction, I believe, is our greatest threat to our national security. Not just foreign oil but oil in general. Because I believe that in CO2 emissions and climate change and the instability that that all drives, I think that that increases the likelihood there will be conflicts in which American soldiers are going to have to fight and die somewhere.
Secretary of Defense
[T]he 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.
Former Secretary of Defense
Over the next 20 years and more, certain pressures-population, energy, climate, economic, environmental-could combine with rapid cultural, social, and technological change to produce new sources of deprivation, rage, and instability.
General Gordon Sullivan (ret.)
Former Army Chief of Staff
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
Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn, USN (Ret.)
If the destabilizing effects of climate change go unchecked, we can expect more frequent, widespread, and intense failed state scenarios creating large scale humanitarian disasters and higher potential for conflict and terrorism ... The Department of Defense and national intelligence communities recognize this clear link between climate change, national security, and instability and have begun strategic plans and programs to both mitigate and adapt to the most likely and serious effects in key areas around the globe
General Anthony Zinni, United States Marine Corps (ret.)
Former Commander-in-Chief of U.S. Central Command and special envoy to Israel and Palestine under President George W. Bush
It's not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism.
Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, US Navy (ret).
The national security community is rightly worried about climate change because of the magnitude of its expected impacts around the globe, even in our own country ... Climate change poses a clear and present danger to the United States of America. But if we respond appropriately, I believe we will enhance our security, not simply by averting the worst climate change impacts, but by spurring a new energy revolution
Admiral John Nathman, US Navy (ret.)
Former Commander of the U.S. Fleet Forces Command under President George W. Bush
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."
Lt. General Lawrence Farrell, US Air Force (ret.)
"The planning we do that goes into organizing, training, and equipping our military considers all the risks that we may face. And one of the risks we see right now is climate change."
General Paul Kern (ret.)
Commander of the United States Army Materiel Command under President George W. Bush
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
Brig. General Bob Barnes (ret.)
While most people associate global warming with droughts, rising sea levels, declining food production, species extinction and habitat destruction, fewer connect these impacts to increasing instability around the globe and the resulting threats to our national security. But the connection - and the threat it poses - is real and growing
Vice Admiral Richard Truly, US Navy (ret).
Former NASA Administrator
The stresses that climate change will put on our national security will be different than any we've dealt with in the past.
General Chuck Wald, US Air Force (ret.)
Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command under President George W. Bush
People can say what they want to about whether they think climate change is manmade or not, but there's a problem there and the military is going to be a part of the solution. It's a national security issue because it affects the stability of certain places in the world."
Admiral Joseph Lopez, US Navy (ret.)
Climate change will provide the conditions that will extend the war on terror."
Operational Energy Statement
The volatility of oil prices will continue to be a budgetary challenge for the Department, and the realities of global oil markets mean a disruption of oil supplies is plausible and increasingly likely in the coming decades. The Services have already taken steps to certify aircraft, ships, tactical vehicles, and support equipment to use alternative liquid fuels, a prudent insurance policy against future oil supply disruptions and high prices.
The Army also notes that transporting fuel can be deadly in a war zone:
Today, fuel consists of over 50 percent of the load carried by supply convoys in Afghanistan. These convoys are especially attractive targets to adversaries, and are regularly attacked. Statistics show that the U.S. loses one Soldier for every twenty convoys through attacks consisting of improvised explosive devices and/or direct fire ambushes. There will be over 3,000 resupply convoys in 2012.