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For the U.S. Military, there is no debate over climate change

by Bob Morris, published

March 2010 was the warmest month on record when combining land and ocean temperatures worldwide, says the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, whose records go back to 1880. Is this a fluke, a one-time spike in temperatures? Could be, but the Pentagon sure doesn’t think so.

In their recently released Quadrennial Defense Review, the Department of Defense says climate change effects are being seen in every region of the planet, as measured by multiple federal agencies.  These effects include increased rainfall, receding glaciers, rising oceans, and prolonged growing seasons.

So, while climate change might be beneficial if you live in an area with longer growing seasons, it’s maybe not so fine if you live on a coastline, and having Arctic shipping lanes open year round could change global commerce.

In the report, the Pentagon says “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked” and that climate change could bring geopolitical instability, poverty, mass migrations, food and water shortages, and act as an “accelerant” towards conflict. As of 2008, they had already identified 30 military installations that were facing risk from rising sea levels.

Since they see energy security as being linked to climate change, the Pentagon is going full-speed ahead with developing renewable energy sources, specifically biofuel. They also plan to decrease the amounts of energy used whenever possible, cut back on coal and oil use, and promote electric vehicles and nuclear power. As far as the US military is concerned, the debate about climate change is over. It is happening and they are planning for it now.

Closer to home, a NOAA report release last year notes that climate change could alter American politics radically by 2035. Why?

There could be an exodus from the coasts and the South towards areas with more moderate climates, something that would upset the calculations of both major parties. Also, increasing drought in the Southwest will certainly trigger more water wars and lead to people leaving those areas.

Northern states could see heavy increases in population while California and Florida lose millions of residents. Those displaced and quite possibly angry about what happened might form the base of a new party of the disgruntled called the Sunscreen Party, suggests a Democratic Party consultant.

The State of California Climate Change Portal details what the potential impacts are for us. Glaciers have been receding for 150 years here. If the trend continues, flooding in winter will worsen as will droughts in the summer. Rising sea levels could contaminate fresh water aquifers with salt water. 

The huge business of California agriculture would surely be adversely affected.  The endless battle in the Southwest for water between city and rural, and state vs. state would almost certainly escalate.

Are their legitimate questions about how and when climate change is happening? Absolutely. 

Proponents on both sides can be equally stubborn and have been certainly been known to sometimes fudge the facts too. However, the Pentagon isn’t moving fast towards renewable energy because they want to hug trees or because they’ve been hoodwinked by climate change proponents. They believe it is happening and that it is inextricably linked to our national and economic security.

Since California is the most populous state, that impacts us too.

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