House votes to direct the Pentagon to disregard climate change assessments

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capitol_domeThe U.S. House-passed 2015 Defense Appropriation bill apparently intends to have the Pentagon stop using leading scientific assessments of global climate disruption in national security planning. The Pentagon takes climate change and its impacts seriously and has included these issues in two Quadrennial Defense Reviews. But an amendment by a coal-state Republican would direct DoD to disregard the U.S. National Climate Assessment and the IPCC international assessment.

Department of Defense Appropriations Act, 2015, passed by the House of Representatives on June 20.

Environment & Energy Daily reported today (by subscription):

The amendment by Rep. David McKinley (R-W.Va.) -- one of more than 150 amendments offered to the appropriations bill -- would prevent the Defense Department from helping to plan or implement the National Climate Assessment and the United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

The amendment targets two perennial GOP targets: the NCA and the U.S. contribution to the IPCC -- which seek to measure the effects of climate change in the United States and globally.

This is a radical amendment. Currently, the climate change problem is studied and taken into consideration as a matter of course in national security planning. The Pentagon takes climate change and its impacts seriously and has included these issues in two Quadrennial Defense Reviews. The McKinley amendment apparently intends to have the DoD essentially stop considering climate change as a national security issue. (For a bit more background on McKinley's views, see here and here.)

McKinley's amendment reads:

None of the funds made available by this Act may be used to design, implement, administer, or carry out the U.S. Global Climate Research Program National Climate Assessment, the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change's Fifth Assessment Report, the United Nations' Agenda 21 sustainable development plan, or the May 2013 Technical Update of the Social Cost of Carbon for Regulatory Impact Analysis Under Executive Order 12866.

The same amendment was attached last month to the House version of the 2015 National Defense Authorization bill ("House Directs Pentagon To Ignore Climate Change"):

[McKinley wrote in a memo to House colleagues:] "The climate is obviously changing; it has always been changing. With all the unrest around the [world], why should Congress divert funds from the mission of our military and national security to support a political ideology?"

Research suggests, however, that the Department of Defense has a number of reasons to be worried about climate change. The department said in its own evaluation last year that climate change presents infrastructure challenges at home and abroad. Meanwhile, a March Pentagon report found that climate change impacts are "threat multipliers," and that the rapid rise of global temperatures and associated extreme weather events could exacerbate issues like "poverty, environmental degradation, political instability and social tensions -- conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence."

Nor is climate change a threat that the Obama administration dreamed up to distract the DOD. A National Intelligence Assessment issued during the George W. Bush administration concluded that climate change poses a significant threat to national security. And just this week, Tom Ridge, who served as homeland security secretary under Bush, said that climate change is "a real serious problem," one that "would bring destruction and economic damage" if we ignore it.

McKinley's amendments may be unlikely to survive consideration of the Defense appropriation and budget authorization bills in the Senate.

Climate Wire reported on May 14 (by subscription):

Former military leaders push for quicker effort to deal with climate change

Seven years ago a group of senior retired generals broke new ground when they warned climate change poses a serious security threat. Now, those top military leaders say the U.S. and others have not done enough to prepare for the challenge.

Writing in a major new report out today, the 16-man military team -- including retired four-star Adm. Frank Lee "Skip" Bowman, former director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program; retired Gen. Charles "Chuck" Wald, former deputy commander of the United States European Command; and retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, the 32nd chief of staff of the Army -- concludes that its early fears about climate change were well-founded. The threats are worsening and the political discourse is discouraging, the report says.

"We are dismayed that discussions of climate change have become so polarizing and have receded from the arena of informed public discourse and debate. Political posturing and budgetary woes cannot be allowed to inhibit discussion and debate over what so many believe to be a salient national security concern for our nation," they wrote. "Time and tide wait for no one."

The report comes on the heels of the White House releasing its National Climate Assessment, which like the United Nations' recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned that climate change is happening now and the damage associated with it is widespread, affecting everything from farming to military bases. ...

Sherri Goodman, executive director of the CNA Military Advisory Board who served in the DOD as a deputy undersecretary from 1993 to 2001, called the report a "clarion call." She applauded the fact that addressing climate change has become a mainstream topic within defense and national security circles and said she expected as much.

"In two decades working with the military, I'm not surprised. Because when the military identifies a risk ... it really begins to work on it. They get it," Goodman said. But in the political sphere, she said, much more needs to get done.

CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board report, National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change

Columnist Paul Farrell, commenting on this development in the Wall Street Journal's Market Watch ("GOP climate-science deniers threaten national defense--Republican House wants to limit Pentagon’s use of climate studies"):

Last week 227 of 231 GOP members of the House voted to turn the Pentagon into climate-science deniers, a decision certain to weaken national security. That’s about as absurd as telling Silicon Valley they can’t use technology.

Get it? The Republican Party is now officially on record as the party of climate-science denialism. These research programs, ongoing and widely used by the Pentagon in strategic national defense planning for many years, could, if the Senate agrees, become illegal to use.

Yes, this Marine veteran is mad as hell. GOP science deniers have “crossed the line,” they’re now messing with national security. ... The military has been using climate-science research for decades. This vote is self-destructive. These research studies are essential in our national defense. ...

Ask the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board, a longtime Pentagon consultant that includes 16 retired generals and admirals. They just updated a report that earlier “described projected climate change as a threat multiplier.”

Get it? The Pentagon has seen climate change as a threat to our national defense for over seven years. Their updated report “drills down on the new vulnerabilities created and tensions amplified due to climate change, which it deems a catalyst for conflict.” No wonder the Dems warned GOP leaders before that radical amendment to the budget vote: “That’s science denial at its worst and it fails our moral obligation to our children and grandchildren.”

CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board's National Security and the Accelerating Risks of  Climate Change  (PDF)re-examines the impact of climate change on U.S. national security in the context of a more informed, but more complex and integrated world. - See more at: http://www.cna.org/reports/accelerating-risks#sthash.4UMiO8Sz.dpuf

the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board's National Security and the Accelerating Risks of  Climate Change  (PDF)re-examines the impact of climate change on U.S. national security in the context of a more informed, but more complex and integrated world.

The Board’s 2007 report described projected climate change as a “threat multiplier.” In this report the 16 retired Generals and Admirals who make up the board look at new vulnerabilities and tensions posed by climate change, which, when set against the backdrop of increasingly decentralized power structures around the world, they now identify as a “catalyst for conflict.”

In the seven years since the first Military Advisory Board (MAB) report, developments in scientific climate projections, observed climate changes (particularly in the Arctic), the toll of extreme weather events both at home and abroad, and changes in the global security environment have all served to accelerate the national security implications of climate change.  While there has been some movement in efforts to plan effective responses to these challenges, the lack of comprehensive action by both the United States and the international community to address the full spectrum of projected climate change issues remains a concern.

The specific questions addressed in this update are:

  1. Have new threats or opportunities associated with projected climate change or its effects emerged since our last report? What will be the impacts on our military?
  2. The 2014 National Climate Assessment indicates that climate change, once considered an issue for a distant future, has moved firmly into the present. What additional responses should the national security community take to reduce the risks posed to our nation and to the elements of our National Power (Political, Military, Social, Infrastructure, and Information systems (PMESII))?

- See more at: http://www.cna.org/reports/accelerating-risks#sthash.4UMiO8Sz.dpuf

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Earlier posts:

Commander of U.S. Forces Pacific: Climate Change is Top Threat

House Science Committee majority plays out the politics of climate science denialism

This entry was posted in Congress: Legislation and Oversight, Global Warming Denial Machine. Bookmark the permalink.

4 Responses to House votes to direct the Pentagon to disregard climate change assessments

  1. Owen O'Doherty says:

    Seems to me that, to use a defence analogy, climate change denial is akin to the denial that Hitler's various annexations in 1930s Europe was a problem (that went well). Is climate change denial not the same as appeasement?

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      Calling denial that fossil fuels are a problem "appeasement" of the fossil fuel interests, maybe. I'm wary of Hitler analogies.

  2. Owen O'Doherty says:

    Yes, bit of a clumsy analogy. It just reminded me of James Lovelock's WW2 comparison here: http://gu.com/p/x3k69

    • Rick - Climate Science Watch says:

      Lovelock has walked back his more radical statements from a few years ago, seeming to shift his position a number of times. Notwithstanding his scientific contributions, I think it's best to rely mainly on the well-vetted scientific assessments and the current work of leading climate science experts who are actively doing research in the field. Although there is also an important role for skilled communicators and educators in connecting the world of science with wider audiences.

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