Climate Change Is A Threat To National Security?

By Karyn:

Do you believe it? Maybe so, maybe not.

Global climate changes are extremely likely to cause drought, shortages of water, agricultural issues, sea level rise, and destruction of property by extreme natural disaster, all of which are likely to increase conflict over land and resources (click here to see a map of impacts as predicted by degree of warming).

Our dependance of foreign oil is a whole other issue related to the problem. The polar bears are in danger too, right?

They do so well in captivity!

How does it make you feel that I would even suggest such things? Are global climate changes really a threat to national security? Are your ears fuming with rage? Do you have goosebumps thinking about alternatives and our escape from foreign oil?

I’m interested most in the reaction of those who do not believe that global climate change is occurring. Of all the people who participated in a recent study and who expressed doubtful and dismissive opinions about climate change, most were angered when the phenomenon was discussed as a threat to national security.


The study-in-the-form-of-a-letter, “A public health frame arouses hopeful emotions about climate change,” performed by Drs. Teresa Myers, Matthew Nisbet, Edward Maibach, and Anthony Leiserowitz offers some insight. The researchers can tell us how their participants reported emotions, but they cannot tell us with certainty why anyone reacted the way they did.

The authors offered some possible explanation. Perhaps, national security is a dear issue to those with dismissive views towards global climate change and thus a connection between the two is seen as manipulative or arrogant.

Perhaps, it is something else altogether. I really would like to know if any of our readers have feelings about the subject.

Source: T. Myers, M. Nisbet, E. Maibach, A. Leiserowitz (2012)

Source: T. Myers, M. Nisbet, E. Maibach, A. Leiserowitz (2012)

The message and the messenger

In the Myers study, participants were given news-style articles to read, then were asked to rank sentences for how angry and hopeful they made them feel. What I found interesting was the most angering sentence for those with doubtful views:

The Environmental Defense Fund and other environmental organizations have urged President Obama to take the lead to break the deadlock.

This content appears to advocate social collaboration, but it mentions only organizations that are often perceived as liberal. I can see why such an idea would be frustrating for someone doubtful of the problem, especially considering that most with such feelings are conservative.

Barack Obama, as the subject of the sentence, is bound to stir feelings of discontent. He is the figurehead of the democratic party; a partner in government, but enemy in election.

The feeling of anger may be a reaction to recent policies aimed at making military practices more sustainable. Notably, Barack Obama asked the Department of Defense to be an example of ‘federal sustainability,’ energy innovation and independence during his first term as president:

“As part of the President’s commitment to a strong national defense, the Department of Defense (DoD) is harnessing energy efficiency and new energy technologies to give our troops better energy options on the battlefield, at sea, in the air, and at home.” (, 2012)

At the 2012 Democatic Convention recently, Obama openly framed energy as a national security threat:

“Since taking office, I have supported an all-of-the-above energy approach that will allow us to take control of our energy future, one where we safely and responsibly develop America’s many energy resources – including natural gas, wind, solar, oil, clean coal, and biofuels – while investing in clean energy and increasing fuel efficiency standards to reduce our dependence on foreign oil.” (Nature, 2012)

Romney has also done so:

“The lease payments, royalties, and taxes paid to the American people in return for the development of the nation’s resources can yield literally trillions of dollars in new government revenue. Lower energy prices can ease the burdens on household budgets. And all Americans can rest assured that the nation’s security is no longer beholden to unstable but oil-rich regions half way around the world.” (Nature, 2012)

This isn’t new for either side of the aisle. John McCain directly framed global climate change this way during the last election:

“John McCain Links Climate Policy to Terror Threat in Energy Speech: Warned about U.S. reliance on foreign oil and the threat of global warming, dismissing even some in his own party who suggest climate change is a Hollywood-driven notion.” (Fox News, 2007)

Do all of these notions create a feeling of anger or is it the messenger? Politicians are pretty much stuck under the umbrella of their party, so long as most choose to associate with a partisan label. Most of us feel connected to one of the three men listed above and may read each of their statements differently.

For love or money?

Perhaps, talking about energy instead of global climate change causes less anger? When you look objectively at each of the above quotes they all appear to agree that although climate change may or may not be real, our dependance on foreign oil is real.

So, what about those of us – like myself and Jeremy – without partisan affiliation? How can we learn to express our concerns about climate change or energy as an environmental, public health, national security, and/or innovative issue? The answer always turns out to be: trying talking to some other people about it and see what happens.

Do you want to talk about climate change? No.

Okay, how about energy? Yes? Awesome.

If you’re like me, you love your country and you only want her to succeed. That’s why we all put our heart and souls into elections. The rest of the year we focus on more personal matters, but the months leading up to November are for debating the future of the United States and her people.

Would a “Made in China” sticker on our energy bills make a difference?

I truly believe that when states, like Hawaii, depend on a single source of energy that they are at greater risk of unreasonable living costs. Additionally, when that source of energy is not local that state is then at the will of foreign suppliers, markets, and decisions (see below).

Source: Hawaii Clean Energy Initiative

This is a problem that will not be solved with anger or hope regarding climate change. It is a problem that will be solved when we decide to care about the source of our lighting, heating, cooling, and clock radios.

I believe that mixing up our energy resources is best. Such an approach allows us to compete in several international markets, many of which we dominate (ie. wind, solar, geothermal, and natural gas). It also makes sure that there is always something new to build, be it an automobile, a battery, a wind turbine, or a pipeline.

How can we produce energy efficiently, securely, clean, and local?

I’m not sure, but we should definitely talk about it.

2 thoughts on “Climate Change Is A Threat To National Security?

  1. Pingback: Report: Climate change is not a national security threat « RubinoWorld

  2. Pingback: Just Climate Change? Environmental Sustainability as a whole is the way! « One Baka Apart

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