Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse recently told people gathered in New York City that global warming “denial” hurts U.S. soldiers in the field and that the “main problem” with the military is its reluctance to join the climate crusade.
“The problem has been that the uniformed military has been reluctant to put its voice into – or its image into this fight,” Whitehouse said, according to a YouTube video posted Thursday.
“But, it’s hard to put a panel of people in uniform in front of the Environmental and Public Works Committee and say, you know, I’m a general, I’m an Admiral, I’m the head of the Marine Corps, we’re telling you,” said Whitehouse, who sits on the Senate committee in question.
Whitehouse also claimed Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus is starting to evaluate commanders based on their knowledge of how global warming will impact the bases they command.
“What the Navy has done that’s been really interesting, Ray Mabus said he’s starting to actually evaluate his – you know, the military lives by evaluation – they’re starting to evaluate their base commanders on how well they communicate the risk of climate change about the base,” Whitehouse said.
“So, if you’re the base commander of Norfolk, or of Naval Station Newport, or of – what is it, Cherry Creek Marine Air Station in North Carolina – you are suddenly have on your checklist of what you’re evaluated on how well you’ve communicated what the risk of climate change is,” he said.
“And, for those bases, for Navy bases particularly, it’s a really real risk,” Whitehouse said. “They’re on the sea. Sea level rise is going to swamp what they do. It’s really practical. So, when people hear it from as trusted a source as a uniformed military officer it will make a big difference, and they have not been very forward about it from the uniform side of the military. DOD has been good. Mabus has been the best.”
President Barack Obama has made tackling global warming a major part of his foreign and military policy. Obama addressed U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates last year to ready his troops for their battle against rising sea levels and extreme weather.
“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us,” Obama told Coast Guard graduates. “Climate change will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, today and for the long-term.”
“Many of our military installations are on the coast, including, of course, our Coast Guard stations,” Obama said.
The White House also released an eleven-page document listing the different ways global warming will affect national security. The documents warned that troops must be ready for extreme weather, sea level rise, droughts, food shortages, violent conflicts, climate refugees and the list goes on.
Secretary of State John Kerry has also harped on the national security concerns of global warming.
“Anyone who doubts that confronting climate change is a national security issue should have sat in the meetings I just had in Asia, where it was a primary topic of discussion with every one of my interlocutors, alongside other security issues like [North Korea] and violent extremism,” Kerry said in a statement.
“And that’s true around the world,” Kerry added. “So now it’s time to put aside discredited scientific arguments and partisan politics and to focus on the facts — not just for our health and the health of our children but for our planet’s security as well.”
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