Tom Friedman on Mideast Drought, Climate and Security

May 28, 2014

It used to be when you heard about a disaster in the third world, if you thought about it at all, you might send 10 bucks to the Red Cross, or maybe nowadays,text it.

What we have to wrap our minds around is that many developing countries are now armed with weapons of mass destruction. In the case of Syria, chemical weapons, India and Pakistan, and soon, maybe Iran, and a host of others (thanks to our friend the atom!) nukes.

They will not go quietly. As the rivers dry up, the fields go barren, the temperatures rise, the rains fail, and the glacier melt stops flowing – they will not go quietly.


Sea level rise impacting naval bases. Climate change altering natural disasterresponse. Drought influenced by climate change in the Middle East and Africa leading to conflicts over food and water — as in, for instance, Syria.

The military understands the realities of climate change and the negative impacts of heavy dependence on fossil fuels.

The U.S. House does not.

With a mostly party-line vote on Thursday, the House of Representatives passed an amendment sponsored by Rep. David McKinley (R-WV) that seeks to prevent the Department of Defense from using funding to address the national security impacts of climate change.

“You can’t change facts by ignoring them,” said Mike Breen, Executive Director of the Truman National Security Project, and leader of the clean energy campaign, Operation Free. “This is like trying to lose 20 pounds by smashing your bathroom scale.”

The full text of McKinley’s amendment reads:

None of the funds authorized to be appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to implement the U.S. Global Change Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change’s Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nation’s Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order

In other words, the House just tried to write climate denial into the Defense Department’s budget. “The McKinley amendment would require the Defense Department to assume that the cost of carbon pollution is zero,” Reps. Henry Waxman (D-CA) and Bobby Rush (D-IL) said in a letter to their colleagues before the vote. “That’s science denial at its worst and it fails our moral obligation to our children and grandchildren.”

The amendment forces the Defense Department to ignore the findings and recommendations of the National Climate Assessment and the IPCC’s latest climate assessment, specifically with regard to the national security impacts of climate change. It would also do the same for the Social Cost of Carbon, which provides a framework for rulemakers to take into account the societal, security, and economic costs associated with emitting more carbon dioxide.

If the Pentagon cannot use its funding to implement the recommendations from the NCA and the IPCC reports, the specific impacts on DoD would be vague — and troublesome — because the reports are crystal clear.

US Department of Defense:

By Terri Moon Cronk
American Forces Press Service

WASHINGTON, May 27, 2014 – Climate change is among the factors Defense Department officials consider in protect national security around the globe, a senior DOD official told a Senate panel here last week.

Daniel Y. Chiu, deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, testified before the Senate Appropriations Committee’s defense subcommittee May 21.

Chiu said while DOD plans for contingencies and unexpected developments to protect the nation’s security, climate change can create sea-level rise, storm surge, shifting climate zones and more severe weather conditions that can affect operations. And while some of those conditions have affected military installations, he said, such changes can also have a negative impact on other DOD concerns.

“We are also seeing the potential for decreased capacity of DOD properties to support training, as well as implications for supply chains, equipment, vehicles and weapon systems that the department buys,” he explained.

Even while infrastructures are being adapted to climate change threats, DOD also is conducting a baseline study to determine which infrastructure elements are most vulnerable to extreme weather events and sea-level increases, he said, adding that the study is due for completion late this year.

Climate change effects potentially could alter, limit or constrain environments where troops operate, Chiu said, using sea-level increases as an example of an impact on amphibious operations.

Another demonstration of climate change’s effects is diminishing sea ice in the Arctic region, he said, which can make the Arctic Ocean “increasingly accessible.” While such a scenario is a “decades-long dynamic,” he said, the region must now be monitored.

DOD’s Arctic strategy, released in November, seeks through U.S. leadership and collaboration to “preserve an Arctic region that remains free of military conflict in which nations act responsibly and cooperatively and where economic and energy resources are developed in a safe and sustainable manner,” Chiu said.



10 Responses to “Tom Friedman on Mideast Drought, Climate and Security”

  1. Sandy Porter Says:

    Tom, thank you so much for putting things in perspective and pointing out the national security implications of Climate Change. I’ve been wondering for the longest time why the DOD/Pentagon/military, etc., haven’t been speaking in the most urgent terms on every public stage they can get on.

    I’ve seen several things, like Rear Admiral David Titley’s TED Talks discussion on climate change implications for the U.S. Navy, I’ve read some things presented by other members of the military (including the 2007 NCA report below) and this disgraceful action by Sen. Inhofe:

    So why doesn’t the military speak up – grab the biggest mic around and show the Inhofe’s,, for the climate science-denying politicians they are.

    The world must address AGW immediately and in the most aggressive way possible. The U.S. is looked to as a vital part of any such actions. The U.S. is being stymied on this by a small group of Senators and Congressionmembers who deny at one level or another the reality or the urgency of action.

    The U.S. military has the power – unlike any other entity – to end the ridiculous ‘arguments’ on Climate Change and demand immediate action. WHY ARE THEY NOT DOING THIS?

    Climate Change Poses Serious Threat To U.S. National Security
    April 16, 2007

    • rayduray Says:

      Re: “The U.S. military has the power – unlike any other entity – to end the ridiculous ‘arguments’ on Climate Change and demand immediate action. WHY ARE THEY NOT DOING THIS?”

      The military is not in the business of telling the truth. They are in the business of being parasites on the taxpayer. Unless and until they can scam the taxpayer on the climate change issue, they’re not going to do anything more than engaging in rhetoric. Just like the guy in the White House.

      Look at this another way. The military are in the business of providing the illusion that they only are dispatched out into the world under civilian control. In the modern era, this means the President calls the shots and sends the troops wherever the corporations want them dispatched, er, I mean wherever the war on terrorism needs to be addressed. The military cannot lead on Climate Change because that is not their role. Unless it comes to armoring a sea-level naval base. Then they can and should react to sea level rise. Other than that, I believe they can plead “it’s not our job.”

  2. Sandy Porter wrote:

    So why doesn’t the military speak up – grab the biggest mic around and show the Inhofe’s,, for the climate science-denying politicians they are.

    I suspect it is a matter of the civilian control of the military. To directly challenge the judgment of a senator or congressman might be regarded as an act of disrespect and breach of military discipline. Additionally, you likely do not want to make enemies of politicians in either party as someone from the party you offend may be your Commander in Chief after the next election.

  3. rayduray Says:

    I’m sure most everyone here is familiar with the John Oliver send-up to climate denialism:

    But did you know that Rupert Murdock’s Wall Street Journal has decided to fight back?

    I sincerely applaud Rupert Murdoch for supporting bat shit crazy nonsense to be published in his premiere business publication. This truly exemplifies the strict adherence that Mr. Murdoch has to the First Amendment. U.S.A.! U.S.A.! Huah!

  4. “In the case of Syria, chemical weapons, India and Pakistan, and soon, maybe Iran, and a host of others (thanks to our friend the atom!) nukes.”


    You don’t help your cause (serious discussion of AGW and possible solutions) with a silly comment like this, Peter. But if you want to play this childish game, OK, how about…

    “Thousands of people died from skin cancer last year, thanks to our friend, the sun.”

    “Over 8000 people died in a single typhoon last year in the Philippines, thanks to our friend, the wind.”

    There. Now can we can start acting like adults again?

  5. Andy Lee Robinson Says:

    The whole Republican party has become a continuous Monty Python sketch.
    Crippling the military’s effectiveness is like poking out your own eyes when you see a tiger approaching.
    Could anything be more daft?

    Well, perhaps this could be!
    (note, it’s a parody site, but not obvious to the NJs)

  6. climatebob Says:

    The military can quickly switch the title of the threat to peak oil or civil disturbance or revolution. The one that is difficult to disguise is rising sea levels but I guess they can put it down to act of god. When you are dealing with loonies who cares.

  7. The problem with the GOP taking such a ridiculous position on climate change is that they make themselves look like their entire platform is ridiculous. Conservatives could have an adult conversation with the nation, and with Democrats, and we could actually get somewhere, if they didn’t make themselves look so untrustworthy when it comes to this, the single most important issue we have ever faced.

    • Sandy Porter Says:

      Good point. There are Conservative economists and pundits who understand AGW and realize – from a market standpoint – that you can’t have an industry that is allowed to spew out it’s harmful waste with no price attached to that. ( Even George Schultz, Secretary of State under Reagan and an economist, argues for some sort of Carbon Tax as a market-based answer.)

      So clearly we have the influence of Tea Party/anti-science/fossil fuel $ and the Conservative Christian movement. I believe that the Tea Party has been deeply corrupted by fossil fuel and big business in general, and convinced that Climate science is partisan. The Conservative Christian movement has bought into that as well, squashing the earlier Creation Care movement.

      For the past 30 years (not a coincidence that this got its turbo boost from the Reagan years) the powers of Big Business/Wall Street/Big Fossil Fuel/billionaires have been building a massive media, lobbying, ‘think tank,’ PAC’s & Super PAC’s infrastructure. Their investments have had a very high return.

  8. The Hartmann discussion on a conservative host show is an amazing example of how far we have come in a decade or less. It crystallizes emerging awareness and concern over GW sociopolitical effects and dangers. A discussion is finally emerging openly. The discussion is slowly shifting from outright denial to effects and solutions.

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