Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Climate change as national security threat


You think we get into wars over oil? Wait until we need water.

It's something I've discussed before and it seems to have percolated to the surface once more due to a pair of news stories. For one, it was announced that this past September was the second hottest one in the past 121 years. Yet while temperatures rose across the globe, as they have been for quite a while now, there were significant portions of North America that experienced coolness. Here's more from the Discover article:

"Warmth (as well as dryness) in the west, and chill in the east (along with shocking winter storminess in New England) has been a very stubborn pattern for at least two years. In part we can thank what has come to be called “The Blob,” a large pool of very warm sea surface temperatures, or SSTs in the Pacific Ocean off the West Coast of North America."

No, the phrase "Global Warming" was not switched to "Climate Change" in a rhetorical move because "Global Warming was proven a hoax." It was done in order to be a more accurate descriptor of what is actually happening. Excessive amounts of CO2 in the atmosphere has many affects on climate. Yes, there are high rises in temperatures but this can also cause other areas to grow colder or for winters to be harsher. So the name change was brought about because scientists are able to do something that political ideologues lack the mental capacity for: changing their minds in light of the facts.

Somehow though, climate change remains a political issue in our bloated kakistocracy. It was mentioned several times at the Democratic presidential debate last week, but Bernie Sanders brought it up in a way that has only recently begun to take hold.

Anderson Cooper of CNN asked the candidates, "What is the greatest national security threat to the United States." Most of the responses were predictable: China, the Middle East, nuclear terrorism. I was actually a bit surprised Putin wasn't tossed into the ring as a possible for the new "Axis of Evil" but that's just me. Anyway, what was Bernie Sanders' response? "Climate change."

It might be the talk of "some lefty radical from Vermont"...if the Pentagon had not years ago identified climate change as a serious threat. Coastal areas flood and droughts diminish the ability to grow food or acquire clean water. Next thing you know you have flood refugees roaming about with nowhere to find simple things to sustain them. This article at Wired demonstrates that in many ways, the Arab Spring was brought about by climate change. As I said at the outset...you think we've killed each other over oil before? Just wait.

You'd think that might be, in a way, a good thing. Nothing gets people moving with urgency and snaps even the most ardent political ideologues into line like a threat to national security. The Arctic ice melts and the war machine springs to life to protect oil and mineral interests in the north from the advances of the Russians. President Obama has called for building new icebreakers for the Coast Guard and Canada has been building new Arctic military bases for a long while now. There is a downside to this, however. As Wired explains:

"In other words, when you frame climate change as a security threat, the military will want to respond. And the way they will respond may have very little to do with stopping the spread of climate change. It will have to do with protecting military interests."

When you're a hammer, everything looks like a nail. A military response to climate change might have its own financial and environmental costs, rather than looking at solutions that are rooted in engineering, global cooperation, or even (gasp!) switching away from fossil fuels.

What can I say? It's a mess.


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