Experts say climate change poses a unique threat to national security


Donald Trump
U.S.
President Donald Trump arrives for a working session with
outreach countries and international organizations, at the G7
Summit, Saturday, May 27, 2017, in Taormina,
Italy.

AP Photo/Evan Vucci,
Pool


President Donald Trump’s bombshell announcement that he was
pulling the US out of the Paris Agreement was widely panned
by environmental activists and scientists, as well as major
business leaders such as Tesla CEO
Elon Musk
and billionaire entrepreneur
Mark Cuban
.

But Trump’s decision has also invited scrutiny from military
and intelligence experts who believe a US withdrawal from
the pact poses a unique threat to national security and the
global order.

The primary link between climate change and national security is
instability, according to James
Clapper
, the former Director of National Intelligence. 

Climate change, which Clapper said significantly contributes to
instability, can have a devastating impact on the availability of
critical resources such as water, food, and energy. He added
that as population centers compete for waning resources,
governments will find it more difficult to maintain order.

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,” Clapper said in 2016. “And by the way, our more
traditional adversaries like Russia and China and Iran and North
Korea will continue to challenge us.”

Secretary of Defense James Mattis also emphasized the link
between climate change and national security. “Climate change is
a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government
response,” Mattis said during his Senate confirmation hearing in
March. “If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of
Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by
addressing national security aspects.” 

He added that he believed the effects of climate change,
“such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea
levels, [and] desertification” continue to impact US national
security. 

Trump’s decision to pull out of the landmark climate agreement
negotiated by former President Barack Obama means the US will
join Nicaragua and Syria, the only other countries who are not
signatories to the deal. 


Paris Agreement FINALSkye Gould/Business Insider

Former defense secretary Ashton Carter, who served under
Obama from 2015 to 2016, also weighed in on the
climate change debate in January 2017. Carter said a lukewarm
response to climate change could “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.”

Carter added that US efforts to combat climate change
by investing in clean energy and new technology could serve
to mitigate the damage already done. 

Trump’s decision also prompted sharp criticism from
Susan Rice, who served as Obama’s national security adviser.
“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,” Rice said in 2014.

Rice argued, in a New York Times
op-ed
published Saturday, that the US’ departure from the
climate agreement may further threaten a
tenuous relationship with key allies around the
world. 

During the campaign and since taking office, Trump has
repeatedly blasted critical US alliances like NATO, which he said
was “obsolete.” Though he backtracked on his comments after
assuming the presidency, Trump went on to criticize NATO member
nations for not paying their defense dues at the NATO summit
in Brussels last month.

His choice to abandon the global climate pact further
strained a fraying relationship between the US and its western
allies. 

Trump’s intent to leave the Paris Agreement on
Thursday invited fresh criticism
from world leaders. Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said
he was “deeply disappointed” by the decision. British Prime
Minister Theresa May echoed Trudeau’s statement.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel, French President Emmanuel
Macron, and Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni said they
noted the decision “with regret.” Macron called it “a mistake for
our planet” and urged US scientists to work in France to help
“make the planet great again.”

Rice called Trump’s decision the “coup de grâce” for
America’s status as a global leader, and added that it
jeopardized US alliances by isolating the country from the rest
of the developed world.

His withdrawal from the Paris Agreement and other actions
Trump has taken over the course of his presidency, Rice said,
ensure that the US will “see the cost when next we need the world
to rally to our side.”

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