Retired admirals and generals push for climate bill, citing national security and energy independence concerns

Annie Snider Contributor
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Fighting climate change is a pressing national security issue, say seven retired generals and admirals who headed to Capitol Hill Thursday in an attempt to break the logjam on climate legislation.

“America’s billion-dollar-a-day dependence on oil makes us vulnerable to unstable and unfriendly regimes,” the group wrote in an ad signed by 33 military leaders that ran Thursday in two Hill-focused papers.

This push comes after Sen. Lindsey Graham, South Carolina Republican, stepped back from an energy bill he was crafting with Senators John Kerry, Massachusetts Democrat, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut Independent, citing concerns that Democrats will subordinate the issue to immigration reform.

“Breaking our addiction to foreign oil is not a choice — it’s an imperative,” said retired Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney. “If we are ever to achieve energy independence and avoid the worst impacts of climate change, the moment is now.”

In February, the Defense Department’s Quadrennial Defense Review for the first time cited climate change as a national security challenge, calling it a threat multiplier that could accelerate instability and conflict. A flurry of recent reports from national security think tanks echoed the assessment, highlighting drought, sea-level rise and lack of access to sanitary water as potentially destabilizing effects of climate change in fragile areas of Africa, the Middle East and southeast Asia.

As Americans become increasingly distrustful of the science of climate change — a Pew poll last October found only 57 percent of Americans believed there was solid evidence of climate change, down 14 points from the year before — proponents of climate change legislation are increasingly casting it as an issue of national security.

“To go out and talk about this from a national security perspective is a message that all Americans understand,” said Jonathan Powers, a veteran of the Iraq war and chief operating officer of the Truman National Security Project, which brought the military leaders together on Thursday. “It’s not about left, it’s not about right – it’s about securing America.”