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Letter shows bipartisan agreement on climate change

U.S. must help address global warming risks in vulnerable nations

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By Summit Voice

FRISCO — Debate about climate change has often been framed in a partisan context, at least in the U.S., but a recent statment by a nonpartisan security think tank points at finding common ground around the issue based on national security concerns.

A recent open letter from the Partnership for a Secure America starkly outlines the national security threats of climate change, stressing  the urgent need for action to prevent disastrous impacts on U.S. interests. Mobilizing public and private support for international mitigation and adaptation projects in vulnerable communities must be a priority, according to the letter.

The group’s members are hardly wild-eyed environmental radicals; Instead, the letter was signed by seventeen former Senators and Congress members, nine retired generals and admirals, both the Chair and Vice Chair of the 9/11 Commission, and Cabinet and Cabinet-level officials from the Nixon, Ford, Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and both Bush administrations.

They wrote that climate change could spur mass migrations, influence civil conflict and ultimately lead to a more unpredictable world.

“In fact, we may already be seeing signs of this as vulnerable communities in some of the most fragile and conflict-ridden states are increasingly displaced by floods, droughts and other natural disasters,” the letter states. “We, the undersigned Republicans, Democrats and Independents, implore U.S. policymakers to support American security and global stability by addressing the risks of climate change in vulnerable nations. Their plight is our fight; their problems are our problems,” it concludes.

“If we have difficulty figuring out how to deal with immigration today, look at the prospects for the glacial retreats in the Andes,” said R. James Woolsey, former Director of Central Intelligence.”The glaciers are not doing well… If that starts to go away, we will have millions upon millions of southern neighbors hungry, thirsty, with crops failing and looking for some place in the world they can go,” Woolsey said.

“As we saw the military in Sandy, we saw the military in Katrina … we’ll see them in Pakistan, — one of those countries that may be more hard-hit by climate change than almost any other country in the immediate term,” said former Congressman Wayne Gilchrest.

The signatories to PSA’s letter join the State Department, Defense Department, National Intelligence Council, and many other security voices in emphasizing the serious national security implications of climate change.

This initiative builds upon PSA’s 2009 statement “Climate Change Threatens All Americans” (www.psaonline.org/climate), which served to publicly identify climate change as an issue of bipartisan concern among national security experts.

A video of the event can be found at www.psaonline.org/launchvideo.

Text of the letter:

The effects of climate change in the world’s most vulnerable regions present a serious threat to American national security interests. As a matter of risk management, the United States must work with international partners, public and private, to address this impending crisis. Potential consequences are undeniable, and the cost of inaction, paid for in lives and valuable U.S. resources, will be staggering. Washington must lead on this issue now.

Countries least able to adapt to or mitigate the impacts of climate change will suffer the most, but the resulting crises will quickly become a burden on U.S. priorities as well. Both the Department of Defense and the State Department have identified climate change as a serious risk to American security and an agent of instability. Without precautionary measures, climate change impacts abroad could spur mass migrations, influence civil conflict and ultimately lead to a more unpredictable world. In fact, we may already be seeing signs of this as vulnerable communities in some of the most fragile and conflict-ridden states are increasingly displaced by floods, droughts and other natural disasters. Protecting U.S. interests under these conditions would progressively exhaust American military, diplomatic and development resources as we struggle to meet growing demands for emergency international engagement.

It is in our national interest to confront the risk that climate change in vulnerable regions presents to American security. We must offer adaptive solutions to communities currently facing climate-driven displacement, support disaster risk reduction measures and help mitigate potential future impacts through sustainable food, water and energy systems. Advancing stability in the face of climate change threats will promote resilient communities, reliable governance and dependable access to critical resources.

We, the undersigned Republicans, Democrats and Independents, implore U.S. policymakers to support American security and global stability by addressing the risks of climate change in vulnerable nations. Their plight is our fight; their problems are our problems. Even as we face budgetary austerity and a fragile economic recovery, public and private sectors must work together to meet the funding demands of this strategic investment in internationally-backed solutions. Effective adaptation and mitigation efforts in these countries will protect our long-standing security interests abroad.

Madeleine Albright, Secretary of State 1997-2001

Richard Armitage, Deputy Secretary of State 2001-05

Samuel Berger, National Security Advisor 1997-2001

Sherwood Boehlert, US Congressman (R-NY) 1983-2007

Carol Browner, Administrator, Environmental Protection Agency 1993-2001

Michael Castle, US Congressman (R-DE) 1993-2011, Governor (R-DE) 1985-92

GEN Wesley Clark, USA (Ret.), Fmr. Supreme Allied Commander Europe of NATO

William Cohen, Secretary of Defense 1997-2001, US Senator (R-ME) 1979-97

Lt Gen Lawrence P. Farrell, Jr., USAF (Ret.), Fmr. Deputy Chief Of Staff for Plans and Programs, HQ USAF

BG Gerald E. Galloway, Jr., P.E., Ph.D., USA (Ret.), Fmr. Dean of the Academic Board, US Military Academy

Wayne Gilchrest, US Congressman (R-MD) 1991-2009

James Greenwood, US Congressman (R-PA) 1993-2005

VADM Lee F. Gunn, USN (Ret.), Fmr. Inspector General of the Department of the Navy

Lee Hamilton, US Congressman (D-IN) 1965-99, Co-Chair, PSA Advisory Board

Gary Hart, US Senator (D-CO) 1975-87

Rita E. Hauser, Chair, International Peace Institute

Carla Hills, US Trade Representative 1989-93

Thomas Kean, Governor (R-NJ) 1982-90, 9/11 Commission Chair

GEN Paul J. Kern, USA (Ret.), Fmr. Commanding General, US Army Materiel Command

Richard Leone, President, The Century Foundation 1989-2011

Joseph I. Lieberman, US Senator (I-CT) 1989-2013

Richard G. Lugar, US Senator (R-IN) 1977-2013

VADM Dennis V. McGinn, USN (Ret.), Fmr. Deputy Chief of Naval Operations for Warfare Requirements and Programs

Donald McHenry, US Ambassador to the UN 1979-81

Constance Morella, US Congresswoman (R-MD) 1987-2003, US Ambassador to OECD 2003-07

Sam Nunn, US Senator (D-GA) 1972-96

John Porter, US Congressman (R-IL) 1980-2001

Tom Ridge, Secretary of Homeland Security 2003-05, Governor (R-PA) 1995-2001

ADM Gary Roughead, USN (Ret.), Fmr. Chief of Naval Operations

Warren Rudman, US Senator (R-NH) 1980-92, Fmr. Co-Chair, PSA Advisory Board

Christopher Shays, US Congressman (R-CT) 1987-2009

George Shultz, Secretary of State 1982-89

Olympia J. Snowe, US Senator (R-ME) 1995-2013

GEN Gordon R. Sullivan, USA (Ret.), Fmr. Chief of Staff, US Army, Chairman, CNA Military Advisory Board

Timothy E. Wirth, US Senator (D-CO) 1987-93

Frank Wisner, Undersecretary of State 1992-93

R. James Woolsey, Director of Central Intelligence 1993-95, Co-founder, US Energy Security Council

GEN Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.), Fmr. Commander in Chief, US Central Command

3 Responses

  1. The attention to global and international adversity that can affect US interests and security is long overdue. However, the signators should expand their statement to include internal US threats to security. Public and private infrastructure involved in our military systems can be significantly impaired by climate change. Direct elements include such facilities and Norfolk and other naval bases and private ship building facilities. Indirect elements include the public transportation facilities that serve military facilities and the elements in the private sector that service and supply the military. Climate change conditions such as shipping in reduced river flows, buckling rails and softened asphalt roads and airports, flooded transportation and structures, severe weather damage, and of course rising sea levels are all relevant.

    The President should mandate that every penny spend on building and rebuilding infrastructure will have two related provisions on climate change: (1) each project should reduce GHG emissions and if possible GHG levels directly and indirectly (2) each should avoid, minimize or mitigate adverse effects of climate change including moving people and facilities out of harm’s way.

    Public infrastructure is relatively easy to locate, design and engineer, and construct/reconstruct. The Feds can influence private infrastructure ranging from residences to utilities. Building codes can deal with wind loadings, safe areas from weather and water, placing electrical equipment not in basements but above flood levels, and in areas of probable future high temperature, how to design and build for such in ventilation and shade. Diversified local energy generation, (with renewable energy) may be desirable and feasible. Zoning and land use practices can use maps of potential areas in harm’s way.

  2. We will all be better off migrating to a low carbon lifestyle.

  3. what do most of these retired politicians have to lose by weighing in and signing this letter? i wish we would see more current politicians signing on to this important letter.

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