Can The Climate Deniers Threaten Our National Security?

By Rika Christensen | 21 February 2015
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Climate deniers may be jeopardizing national security. By refusing to do anything about climate change, they’re contributing to the rising temperatures that are causing our sea levels to rise. Why is that such a threat to our national security? Because the rising sea levels put 30 of our military bases in danger.

Jeff Goodell describes his visit to Naval Station Norfolk in an in-depth article in Rolling Stone. His visit came just after a nor’easter had gone through, and he saw military vehicles up to their axles in water, and pooled water all along a flat, grassy area near Admiral’s Row. When a storm blows through, or when the tide is unusually high, Naval Station Norfolk is half-submerged in the ocean.

Sea levels there are actually rising twice as fast as the global average, according to Goodell’s article, and Naval Station Norfolk is not the only base at risk. At Langley, base commanders have 30,000 sand bags ready to fight the inevitable flooding when a storm comes in. Old Christmas trees get piled along the beach to keep it from eroding at Dam Neck, another naval base. And, says Goodell, Virginia Senator Tim Kaine says that the rising sea levels impact our military readiness.

Think Progress says that 53 percent of the Republican caucus in Congress is made up of climate deniers. These are the people running our country, and they’re from the party that’s most vocal about strengthening national security, especially right now with threats from ISIS overseas. Yet here we have:

  • Senator Mark Kirk (R-IL), who doesn’t believe that greenhouse gases are driving climate change. He also believes we ought to do “all we can” to stop ISIS.
  • Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), who doesn’t think that man is capable of affecting the climate, because God. He also said, last year, that ISIS is developing a bomb to blow up a major U.S. city, and that Obama’s policies are helping them along in their goals.
  • Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), who brought up the “I’m not a scientist” argument when asked about climate change. She also touts her record as a combat veteran who served in Iraq when discussing threats like ISIS.
  • Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) and House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH), who both also trotted out the “I’m not a scientist” argument. However, Boehner has “urged” Obama to send a new authorization for military force against ISIS, while, last year, McConnell said that Obama needed to get moving on a strategy for neutralizing ISIS.

Those are just a few senators and the Speaker of the House. Congress is rife with these people now.

Goodell’s article also brings up the fact that many environmental activists, and people and politicians who accept climate science, tend to frame their arguments in economic and moral terms. Framing it in moral terms doesn’t work, because the climate deniers either have their own morality, or they have an “I got mine, screw you” mentality that’s so strong, they really don’t care about how climate change might affect anybody who’s not them.

As far as economic concerns, Republicans are mostly concerned with the present. They shoot back on those concerns with, “What about the cost to businesses now? What about our economy now? We can’t fight climate change without derailing our economy and destroying jobs,” or some similar argument that sounds reasonable, but isn’t quite true.

Goodell seemed to applaud Obama for framing the argument in terms of national security. If climate change is affecting our military’s readiness right now, then how can we mount the offensive against ISIS, and other possible threats, that we need and are capable of?

Worse, though, is that Goodell believes that framing the impacts of climate change this way will bring rabid attacks from the right. Obama is not the first to frame the threat of climate change in terms of national security. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel did it, and the Wall Street Journal promptly blasted him for it.

Secretary of State John Kerry called climate change a “weapon of mass destruction,” and drew Sen. John McCain’s (R-AZ) ire. McCain said Kerry was “butterflying around the world, saying all kinds of things,” and Newt Gingrich said that Americans who actually care about national security should demand Kerry’s resignation.

So all this really does is make them dig their heels in further, rather than open their eyes. To be sure, passing policies that aggressively address climate change isn’t going to bring about immediate results. It can, however, help to slow down man-made climate change, and buy us a little time to do something with our bases that are in danger. Unfortunately, for politicians bankrolled by some of the wealthiest oil barons imaginable, there is no argument that will open their eyes. The Koch brothers’ checks will stop coming if they do.

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