Climate Change Threatens US Troops

The NY Times recently reported that the Pentagon has started incorporating global warming into its strategic planning, because the impacts of climate change – drought, rising sea levels, mass migration, new pandemics – will likely pose threats to the United States. Although the Defense Department has long considered energy costs in its planning (sadly, fighter jets don’t come in hybrid versions), the recognition of climate change as threatening US security is relatively new.

When US security is threatened, the military has to plan, and sometimes act. Thus, the Pentagon has some interest in seeing whether global warming can be mitigated. According to retired Marine Corps General Anthony Zinni, “We will pay for this one way or another. We will pay to reduce greenhouse gas emissions today, and we’ll have to take an economic hit of some kind. Or we will pay the price later in military terms. And that will involve human lives.”

But it’s not just the liberal Times reporting this. Last year National Defense Magazine, which is the publication of the defense industry lobbying association (not exactly cuddly liberals: their motto is “Promoting national security since 1919”), reported the exact same thing last year. Army General Gordon Sullivan called climate change a “threat multiplier,” and Navy Admiral Joe Lopez, foreshadowed General Zinni, saying “National security and the threat of climate change [are] real, and we can pay for it now, or pay even more dearly for it later.”

I agree that fixing climate change will cost us. In fact, as I noted here, that is exactly what cap & trade, or a carbon tax, will do: make energy more expensive and thus incent us to be more efficient. What the Pentagon is saying is that if we don’t pay some dollars now, we’ll end up paying in soldier’s lives later. So maybe some of those Republican politicians who claim to “support our troops” but are against any efforts to stop global warming (I’m talking to you, John Boehner, Mitch McConnell and James Inhofe, you hypocrites) ought to revisit their positions.

Even better, maybe the corporate executives who are against any carbon legislation that will hurt their profits, but tend to be Republican and thus pro-troop, will also rethink their position. I’m talking about the National Association of Manufacturers, who use bogus data to claim that cap and trade won’t help the environment, or the energy executives who make up 7 of the top 10 best-paid CEOs in 2008. But those guys don’t really care about the troops, since their sons never join the military. No, those corporate executives care more about profits, so that they can pay their sons’ tuition at Princeton and Harvard Business School. When Admiral Lopez says that we have to pay now in money or pay later in soldiers’ lives, I guess we all know which one the corporate executives are going to choose.

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