Climate change is apparently no longer a threat to U.S. national security. Or at least, it’s not one significant enough for mention in the White House’s National Security Strategy unveiled Monday.
The strategy does include a section titled “Embrace Energy Dominance,” which calls for the U.S. to “remain a global leader in reducing traditional pollution, as well as greenhouse gases.” But the strategy also calls for “unleashing these abundant energy resources—coal, natural gas, petroleum, renewables, and nuclear” and suggests the U.S. will push back on international measures to reduce emissions and fossil fuel use: “Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system. U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests,” it reads. In a speech introducing the strategy today, Trump touted his decision to withdraw the U.S. from the “expensive and unfair Paris Climate Accord.”
More significantly, the strategy does not identify climate change as a national security threat, or “threat multiplier” to use the language employed by defense officials in the past.
This is in stark contrast to the 2015 strategy released by the Obama administration, which stated, “Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water.”
The Trump administration’s stance is also in stark contrast to the massive Defense Authorization Act from Congress that the president signed last week, which called climate change a “direct threat to the national security of the United States.” That bill stated that “a three-foot rise in sea levels will threaten the operations of more than 128 United States military sites, and it is possible that many of these at-risk bases could be submerged in the coming years,” superficially mentioning that “in the Marshall Islands, an Air Force radar installation built on an atoll at a cost of $1,000,000,000 is projected to be underwater within two decades.” It also noted that, “As global temperatures rise, droughts and famines can lead to more failed states, which are breeding grounds of extremist and terrorist organizations.”
Secretary of Defense James Mattis has himself said, “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today” and suggested that it’s appropriate for the military to include its effects in planning.
Despite these acknowledgements, a GAO report requested by Senate Democrats and released last week found that the military is failing to adequately prepare for the potential impacts of climate change on its facilities. The new strategy document suggests the Pentagon won’t be under much pressure from the White House to make those preparations.