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Panetta: “Climate Change has a Dramatic Impact on Our National Security”

Panetta: “Climate Change has a Dramatic Impact on Our National Security”

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On Wednesday night (May 2), Secretary of Defense Panetta explicitly connected environmental, energy, and national security as interlinked parts of the threats America faces. While this link has been stated in National Security documents since the release of the Quadrennial Defense Review in 2010, this is the first time that Panetta has made such statements.

Sometimes, I worry that too often political leaders say “climate change is a security threat” as simply another talking point. The actions of the DoD are proving that it is actually a serious threat, not just another talking point. As Panetta says:

Our mission at the Department is to secure this nation against threats to our homeland and to our people.  In the 21st Century, the reality is that there are environmental threats which constitute threats to our national security.  For example, the 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. 

The Environmental Defense Fund, at which Panetta was speaking, was honoring the DoD for its role not only in leading to identify the threats of climate change, but also to begin to transition the military away from fossil fuels. Again, here’s Panetta:

The Army, Navy, and Air Force have committed to adding about three gigawatts of renewable energy to installations in the coming years – one of the largest commitments to clean energy in the nation’s history. 

As someone who now faces – and this is one of those bitter facts you confront at a place like the Department of Defense – we now face a budget shortfall exceeding $3 billion because of higher than expected fuel costs this year.  I have more than a deep interest in more sustainable and efficient energy options.

In both of these quotes, it is important to remember that the DoD is not doing this for political reasons, or to be ‘green’. Instead, this is a hard-headed decision to directly engage with the threats America faces and make the warfighters better equipped to fight and win America’s wars.

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