Sanders: Global Warming Is Our Greatest National Security Threat

Andrew Follett | Energy and Science Reporter

Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders believes global warming, not terrorism or nuclear weapon proliferation or Chinese hacking, is the biggest threat facing the country.

During Tuesday night’s Democratic presidential debate, Sanders said, “climate change is the greatest threat to the United States.” Sanders website claims that America “must lead the world in tackling climate change, if we are to make certain that this planet is habitable for our children and grandchildren.”

Sanders’ claim that global warming is the biggest threat facing the U.S. stands in contrast to most of his primary opponents — other Democratic candidates said the Islamic State, Iran and nuclear weapons as the country’s biggest threat. Only former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley cited global warming as a major threat to the U.S., but only after a string of other similar mentions.

Sanders has called for a carbon tax in the United States as a way of reducing carbon dioxide emissions.

Critics have said carbon taxation disproportionately harms the poorest members of society. A 2009 study by the National Bureau of Economic Research found that a carbon tax would double the tax burden of the poorest households, making it effectively impossible to have both a carbon tax and a living wage.  A tax on all man-made greenhouse gas emissions would make the tax burden of the poorest households three times greater than the richest households, according to the study.

Only four nations  — Ireland, Sweden, Chile, and Finland actually have carbon taxation today. The largest economy to ever have a carbon tax, Australia, repealed it in 2014.

“We need to transform our energy system away from fossil fuel and into sustainable energy,” Sanders said when accepting the endorsement of Friends of the Earth, claiming that the nation must start using only renewable sources of energy, such as wind and solar power. Those power sources presently make up a mere 4.4 percent and 0.4 percent of American electricity generation respectively.

Additionally, Sanders has opposed the coal to natural gas switch of recent years, which according  Department of Energy and Berkley Earth “ … has probably been the single largest contributor to the … largely unexpected decline in U.S. CO2 emissions.”

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