Cost and benefit balance change for dealing with global warming if it creates a national security threat.

An Unexpected Cost of Climate Change?

by Elaine Schwartz    •    May 21, 2014    •    642 Views

Our Wednesday Environment Focus

By Madeleine Vance, guest blogger and student at Kent Place School; edited by Elaine Schwartz

Global Warming has become more than just a threat to the environment.

In the movie “Carbon Nation,” former army colonel Dan Nolan discusses climate change as a national security threat. The U.S.’s operating bases in Iraq require around 300,000 barrels a day of diesel fuel for their generators. The problem is that transporters for this fuel are easy targets that could become explosive devices. Nolan is a part of the movement leading the Pentagon towards increasing energy efficiency and using sustainable power that can save fuel and save lives. He exclaims in the movie that, “We must unleash ourselves from the tethers of fuel.”

Where are we going economically? If national security is threatened by climate change, then the cost and benefit of prevention change.

There have been many events in the past several years that have exhibited the relationship between global warming and security threats. The rising temperatures that are behind increasing amounts of the violent storms, droughts, diseases, and displacement of people can lead to destabilization and feed into possible strife or warfare. They can create food shortages, destroyed homes, and economic loss. The deaths and displacement of thousands of people in southern Sudan have been the result of drought and an expanding Sahara desert.

Another example of global warming posing a security threat is the melting of the Arctic. The shrinking of the ice cap opens a new shipping channel that must be defended. It also gives access to undersea resources that are already subject to international competition.

Meanwhile, major urban centers would be affected by rising sea levels:

Cost and benefit changes from climate change becoming a national security risk

From: “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change”

This year, a Military Advisory Board produced an analysis of the security implications of climate change. While many people may scoff at the idea that climate change is a threat to our national security, the analysis concluded that climate change can have a significant security and geopolitical impact on the world. Putting forth effort and funding now towards sustaining our Earth may be costly but it will benefit the future of our society.

Our bottom line? Comparing current sacrifice to future benefit helps us decide how to wage the war against global warming.

Does concern about national security add to your willingness to deal with global warming more proactively? Please do comment and let us know.

Sources and Resources: Our information was based on this NY Times article and “Carbon Nation” which you can watch here. The map was from “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change.

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