Former Maryland governor and presidential hopeful Martin O’Malley told ABC’s George Stephanopoulos Sunday global warming is the most important “natural threat” facing the U.S.
Calling global warming a “natural threat” distinguishes it from “man-made” threats like a nuclear Iran and Islamic extremism.
“The greatest danger that we face right now on a consistent basis in terms of manmade threats is — is — nuclear Iran and related to that, extremist violence,” O’Malley told Stephanopoulos. “I don’t think you can separate the two. I think they go together.”
“In terms of natural threats, clearly, it’s climate change. And we have to confront — we have to confront manmade and natural threats,” said O’Malley, a Democrat, clearly distinguishing global warming from man-made threats.
O’Malley’s comments are a huge departure from President Barack Obama and his cabinet, who not only call global warming a national security but also say it’s caused by human activity. Obama told Congress that “the Pentagon says that climate change poses immediate risks to our national security. We should act like it.”
“The best scientists in the world are all telling us that our activities are changing the climate, and if we do not act forcefully, we’ll continue to see rising oceans, longer, hotter heat waves, dangerous droughts and floods, and massive disruptions that can trigger greater migration, conflict, and hunger around the globe,” Obama said in his State of the Union speech this year.
O’Malley’s remarks also diverge from potential Democratic presidential opponent Hillary Clinton, who has been clear of her support for regulations to restrict burning fossil fuels — a source of global warming, according to most scientists.
Clinton recently told a gathering of environmentalists that the “science of climate change is unforgiving, no matter what the deniers may say” adding that if “we act decisively now we can still head off the most catastrophic consequences” — referring to Democratic support for regulations to curb burning fossil fuels to stop a “man-made” disaster.
O’Malley already has a troubled relationship with the environmental community due to his decision to allow hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, in western Maryland while he was governor. Eco-activists were disappointed the former governor did not ban the practice.
New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo, also a Democratic presidential hopeful, earned praise from environmentalists for banning fracking last year, but has also come under fire for dodging questions on global warming.
“I don’t want to get into a political debate at this time about climate change causes, et cetera,” Cuomo said last year. “Forget the causes. Is it global warming? Is it reliance on fossil fuels? Forget the causes. What is inarguable is the result.”
But are Cuomo and O’Malley simply Democratic outliers when it comes to global warming? Maybe not.
Last week, Senate Democrats Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota broke ranks and voted against an amendment saying that “climate change is real and caused by human activity and that Congress needs to take action to cut carbon pollution.”
Both Manchin and Heitkamp are from energy heavy states. West Virginia is a major coal producer while North Dakota has risen to become the country’s second-largest oil-producing state. Both senators have also opposed Environmental Protection Agency regulations that force states to cut carbon dioxide emissions from power plants.
Manchin and Heitkamp, however, did eventually vote in favor of an alternative global warming amendment that simply related to “responding to the economic and national security threats posed by human-induced climate change.” Both lawmakers also voted for an amendment that blocks the government from slapping a tax on carbon dioxide emissions.
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