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Paper: Shut Down Gitmo, Turn It Into A Global Warming Research Lab

REUTERS/Larry Downing

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Michael Bastasch Contributor
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A new paper put out by two academics argues the military prison in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, should be shut down and turned into a “marine research institution and peace park” that could be used to “meet the challenges of climate change.”

“The United States should deliver on President Obama’s recent plan to close the military prison at U.S. Naval Station Guantánamo Bay and repurpose the facilities into a state-of-the-art marine research institution and peace park, a conservation zone to help resolve conflicts between the two countries,” Joe Roman, a University of Vermont biologist, and James Kraska, a U.S. Naval War College lawyer, write in a new paper obtained by ClimateWire.

“This model, designed to attract both sides, could unite Cuba and the United States in joint management, rather than serve as a wedge between them, while helping meet the challenges of climate change, mass extinction, and declining coral reefs,” write Roman and Kraska.

President Barack Obama has made it a priority to close Gitmo, a notorious prison holding some of the world’s most dangerous terrorists, to make good on a campaign promise when first elected president in 2008.

The president issued an executive order to close Gitmo in 2009, but the order has not been carried out. Republicans have opposed closing down the prison, saying it would harm America’s national security.

In February, Obama announced a plan to close the prison “once and for all,” arguing it was hurting America’s reputation with the rest of the world.

“For many years, it has been clear that the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay does not advance our national security—it undermines it,” Obama said in February, 2015. “Guantanamo harms our partnerships with allies and other countries whose cooperation we need against terrorism.”

But Obama needs to work with Congress to close Guantanamo Bay, and opposition to his plan is still intense. Republicans argue the Obama administration hasn’t given them any details on the plan to close the prison.

“His proposal fails to provide critical details required by law,” said Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, a Wisconsin Republican. “We will not jeopardize our national security over a campaign promise.”

It’s not clear what would happen to the military base once the prison is closed, but Roman and Kraska want it to become a global warming research facility. They argue the base’s pristine environment is the perfect place to study the impacts of global warming on land and ocean life.

“With a reduced U.S. footprint at Guantánamo, most of the land and sea could be returned to native wildlife,” Roman and Kraska write. “The area provides habitat for many endemic species, such as the vulnerable Cuban iguana, and it may be a critical refuge for the West Indian manatee.”

“For the next generation, the name ‘Guantánamo’ could become associated with redemption and efforts to preserve and repair international relations and the planet,” they write.

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