The U.S. military has considered climate change a national security threat for years, and has been working to reduce its massive carbon footprint by using alternative fuels, for example. But in a report released Monday, the Pentagon for the first time said global warming is a security threat right now. "Climate change will affect the Department of Defense's ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security," the 20-page 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap begins.
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel reiterated the point at a defense summit in Peru. "We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change," he told his fellow defense ministers, "and we must be proactive in addressing them." He added that warming temperatures are a "threat multiplier," exacerbating existing problems from "infectious disease to armed insurgencies," plus new security issues in the future.
Rising sea levels, changing precipitation patterns, increased extreme weather events, and warmer global temperatures are logistical problems for the military, the report notes, but they'll also likely increase food and water shortages, feed instability and mass migration, and increase terrorism and conflict.
Sen. James Inhofe (R-Okla.), the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee and a leading congressional climate change skeptic, said it is "disappointing, but not surprising," that the Obama Pentagon is focusing on global warming while "ISIS is still gaining ground and causing havoc in Syria and Iraq," among "other, legitimate threats." George Washington University's Marcus D. King says that "climate change and water shortages" in Syria may well have fed the creation and growth of ISIS.