Rove Misses Security Experts' Assessments Of Climate Change


On Fox News, Karl Rove criticized President Obama for elevating climate change as a national security concern. However, national security experts have long warned that climate change will exacerbate existing tensions within and between nations, and the U.S. military became concerned about the issue before the Obama administration.

Rove Criticizes Obama For Recognizing Climate Change As A National Security Threat

Rove: Obama "Elevat[ed] Climate To The Same Importance As Weapons Of Mass Destruction And Terrorism." Echoing a Foreign Policy column by former Bush adviser Peter Feaver, Karl Rove said on Fox & Friends that President Obama is "elevating climate to the same importance as weapons of mass destruction and terrorism" and "it hasn't gone well":

KARL ROVE: Where President Obama has embraced the Bush worldview, things have gone well. Where President Obama has not embraced the Bush worldview, it has not gone as well. In fact, as Peter makes the point, where he's embraced Tom Friedman's views on how to address the Israeli-Palestinian conflict or about elevating climate to the same importance as weapons of mass destruction and terrorism, then it hasn't gone well. [Fox News, Fox & Friends, 11/1/11]

National Security Experts Have Long Identified Challenges Posed By Climate Change

Security Experts Under Reagan Admin. Researched Climate And Security Connection. From The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media:

"The US security community has been looking at environment and security links for much longer than the current attention around climate/security linkages would suggest," Geoffrey Dabelko, director of the Environmental Change and Security Program at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars, told The Yale Forum in an e-mail interview. He noted that the research goes back as far as the Reagan administration. [The Yale Forum on Climate Change and the Media, 7/17/08]

Bush Included Climate Change In His 2002 National Security Strategy. From President George W. Bush's 2002 National Security Strategy:

Economic growth should be accompanied by global efforts to stabilize greenhouse gas concentrations associated with this growth, containing them at a level that prevents dangerous human interference with the global climate. Our overall objective is to reduce America's greenhouse gas emissions relative to the size of our economy, cutting such emissions per unit of economic activity by 18 percent over the next 10 years, by the year 2012. Our strategies for attaining this goal will be to:

remain committed to the basic U.N. Framework Convention for international cooperation;

obtain agreements with key industries to cut emissions of some of the most potent greenhouse gases and give transferable credits to companies that can show real cuts;

develop improved standards for measuring and registering emission reductions;

promote renewable energy production and clean coal technology, as well as nuclear power -- which produces no greenhouse gas emissions, while also improving fuel economy for U.S. cars and trucks;

increase spending on research and new conservation technologies, to a total of $4.5 billion -- the largest sum being spent on climate change by any country in the world and a $700 million increase over last year's budget; and

assist developing countries, especially the major greenhouse gas emitters such as China and India, so that they will have the tools and resources to join this effort and be able to grow along a cleaner and better path. [National Security Strategy, 9/20/02, via The New York Times]

In his 2006 National Security Strategy, Bush did not mention climate change, global warming or greenhouse gases.

Chairman Of Bush's National Intelligence Council: Climate Change Has "Wide-Ranging Implications For US National Security Interests." In June 25, 2008, testimony before the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence and the House Select Committee on Energy Independence and Global Warming, Dr. Thomas Fingar, chairman of Bush's National Intelligence Council, presented the Council's study titled "National Security Implications of Global Climate Change to 2030." Fingar presented the following "summary of key observations":

We judge global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for US national security interests over the next 20 years. Although the United States will be less affected and is better equipped than most nations to deal with climate change, and may even see a benefit owing to increases in agriculture productivity, infrastructure repair and replacement will be costly. We judge that the most significant impact for the United States will be indirect and result from climate-driven effects on many other countries and their potential to seriously affect US national security interests. We assess that climate change alone is unlikely to trigger state failure in any state out to 2030, but the impacts will worsen existing problems--such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions. Climate change could threaten domestic stability in some states, potentially contributing to intra- or, less likely, interstate conflict, particularly over access to increasingly scarce water resources. We judge that economic migrants will perceive additional reasons to migrate because of harsh climates, both within nations and from disadvantaged to richer countries. [Office of the Director of National Intelligence, 6/25/08]

Center for Naval Analysis Concluded That Climate Change Has "Grave Implications For Our National Security." A 2007 Center for Naval Analysis study was authored by 11 retired generals and admirals. It stated that "[t]he nature and pace of climate changes being observed today and the consequences projected by the consensus scientific opinion are grave and pose equally grave implications for our national security." The report issued four conclusions: 1) "Projected climate change poses a serious threat to America's national security." 2) "Climate change acts as a threat multiplier for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the world." 3) "Projected climate change will add to tensions even in stable regions of the world." 4) "Climate change, national security, and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges." [Center for Naval Analysis, 2007]

Military Reportedly Began "Studying Possible Future Impacts Of Global Warming With New Intensity" Under The Bush Admin. From an April 15, 2007, Washington Post article:

"The Army's former chief of staff, Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, who is one of the authors, noted he had been "a little bit of a skeptic" when the study group began meeting in September. But, after being briefed by top climate scientists and observing changes in his native New England, Sullivan said he was now convinced that global warming presents a grave challenge to the country's military preparedness.

"The trends are not good, and if I just sat around in my former life as a soldier, if I just waited around for someone to walk in and say, 'This is with a hundred percent certainty,' I'd be waiting forever," he said."

Part of the sense of urgency, the generals said in interviews last week, stems from the fact that changing climatic conditions will make it harder for weak nation-states to address their citizens' basic needs. The report notes, for example, that 40 percent of the world's population gets at least half its drinking water from the summer melt of mountain glaciers that are rapidly disappearing.

"Many developing nations do not have the government and social infrastructures in place to cope with the type of stressors that could be brought about by global climate change," the report states. "When a government can no longer deliver services to its people, ensure domestic order, and protect the nation's borders from invasion, conditions are ripe for turmoil, extremism and terrorism to fill the vacuum." [Washington Post, 4/15/07]

Dept. Of Defense: Climate Change "May Act As An Accelerant Of Instability Or Conflict." From the Pentagon's Quadrennial Defense Review Report, issued in February 2010:

Climate change will affect DoD in two broad ways. First, climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that we undertake. The U.S. Global Change Research Program, composed of 13 federal agencies, reported in 2009 that climate-related changes are already being observed in every region of the world, including the United States and its coastal waters. Among these physical changes are increases in heavy downpours, rising temperature and sea level, rapidly retreating glaciers, thawing permafrost, lengthening growing seasons, lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers, earlier snowmelt, and alterations in river flows.

Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.

While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas. In some nations, the military is the only institution with the capacity to respond to a large-scale natural disaster. Proactive engagement with these countries can help build their capability to respond to such events. Working closely with relevant U.S. departments and agencies, DoD has undertaken environmental security cooperative initiatives with foreign militaries that represent a nonthreatening way of building trust, sharing best practices on installations management and operations, and developing response capacity. [Department of Defense, February 2010]

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Environment & Science, Climate Change, National Security & Foreign Policy
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Karl Rove
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