Sailors stand-by to load jugs of purified water into an approaching SH-60B Seahawk, assigned to the "Saberhawks" of Helicopter Anti-Submarine Squadron Light Four Seven (HSL-47), on the flight deck aboard the aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72), January 11, 2005. Helicopters assigned to Carrier Air Wing Two (CVW-2) and Sailors from USS Abraham Lincoln (CVN 72) are supporting Operation Unified Assistance, the humanitarian operation effort in the wake of the Tsunami that struck South East Asia. The Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group is currently operating in the Indian Ocean off the waters of Indonesia and Thailand. Picture taken January 11, 2005. REUTERS/U.S. Navy/Tyler J. Clements-Handout Photo: HO, U.S NAVY PHOTOGRAPHER
"National security and climate change? My students just don't see the connection"...
This is what a Harvard law professor shared with me late last year. As it turns out, his students are not alone. According to a recent Pew Research Center poll, only 56 percent of Americans see climate change as a major security threat.
Among security experts, however, there is no confusion about the national security risk from climate change. During the past eight years, I have spent thousands of hours working with senior leaders within the national security community on exactly that issue - first at the Department of Homeland Security and then on the National Security Council as the senior director of resilience policy.
A warming globe will have game-changing impacts - more extreme heat and rainfall, and more destructive droughts, storms and wildfires. This year has already given us a glimpse of what those changes look like on a national and global scale. Hurricane Harvey slammed Houston with 9 trillion gallons of rain, which led to never-before-seen flooding. The entire island of Barbuda evacuated in advance of Hurricane José - just after Hurricane Irma destroyed 95 percent of its buildings and left it "barely habitable." Hurricane Maria has left Puerto Rico with the prospect of no electricity for four to six months.
Recent flooding in Sierra Leone has killed over a thousand people and caused "unprecedented damage," according to the United Nations. World Health Organization scientists predict higher rates of mosquito-borne diseases thanks to hotter global temperatures and climate-related flooding in Latin America. Dozens of wildfires are blazing across the northwestern U.S., putting 2017 on track to become one of the worst wildfire seasons in memory.
Disappearing sea ice in the Arctic is opening up a new ocean and complicating geopolitical maneuvering for expanded maritime access, resource extraction and shipping routes. Recent floods put close to half of low-lying Bangladesh underwater, damaging almost 100,000 homes and over a billion acres of cropland. The relentless sea rise will likely displace millions of people as it continues to swallow the country, 25 percent of which is less than three feet above sea level.
Every U.S. secretary of defense since Robert Gates has recognized climate change as a threat to national security. As our current defense secretary James Mattis testified in writing before the Senate Armed Services Committee shortly after his confirmation hearing in January, "Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today."
U.S. Navy crewmen assist with a medical evacuation during Hurricane Harvey relief efforts in Jasper, Texas. Photo: CHRISTOPHER LINDAHL, Handout
The challenges are manifold. To start, climate impacts increase demands on the military for humanitarian aid. In 2013, the U.S. was the first to respond to Typhoon Haiyan, the largest to ever hit the Philippines, which killed 6,000 civilians and left almost 2,000 more missing. In the last few weeks alone, the National Guard, the Navy, the Coast Guard and USAID workers provided disaster relief in the United States, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Barbados and the Bahamas.
Climate impacts also challenge our operational readiness. In 2016, climate variability created flash floods and erosion that destroyed Army training grounds in California, and sea level rise continues to threaten our naval stations. A recent study from the Union of Concerned Scientists found that three feet of sea level rise would threaten 128 coastal military installations in the U.S.
The Department of Defense and Department of Homeland Security have identified climate change as a "threat multiplier" that exacerbates resource shortages and other stressors that worsen political and economic instability, and increase the likelihood of conflict.
These threats loom so large that the Republican-led House of Representatives labeled climate change a direct security threat in its most recent defense appropriations bill. Just last year, the National Intelligence Council cited "lack of preparedness" for climate impacts as "a primary cause of disruption" in the immediate future.
To head off the troubling times ahead, we need to build up our resilience. As a nation, we need to make sure our infrastructure investments will last the full length of their intended service life, often up to 100 years. We need to insist that our national security personnel have access to the best available science to inform their decision-making. We must ensure that military doctrine, plans and strategy consider projected climate impacts. And we need to seriously incorporate future climate risks into our building design and land use planning.
Responding to a changing climate with common-sense resilience efforts shouldn't be divisive. It saves money in the long run and protects people's homes, businesses and lives.
Alice Hill is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution at Stanford University. She served as special assistant to the president and senior director of resilience policy for the National Security Council under President Barack Obama.
September 23, 2017
original story HERE
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