The Skywriter

Blog Action Day: The global security challenge of climate change

15
Oct

Blog Action Day: The global security challenge of climate change

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The climate change debate often revolves around economics: what will be the cost of strong climate legislation vs. the cost of inaction (turns out the latter is much more costly), how many jobs will be gained or lost, etc. And even though we strongly disagree with those who say that tackling climate change is just too darn expensive, reasonable people can part ways on these matters. But unless you're a climate denier, when it comes to global security the debate is essential over: Climate change is the most serious long-term threat to not just our national security, but to global security in general.

Unfortunately, compared to the economic or environmental aspects of the crisis, this fact gets relatively little attention in the climate debate. Which is why I'm glad Senator John Kerry (D-MA), co-author of the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act, has decided to use his considerable national security credentials to make climate change a critical part of the the U.S. foreign policy agenda:

...climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. We risk fanning the flames of failed-statism, and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.

I can't think of a more compelling set of reasons for passing a comprehensive global treaty to cut global warming pollution. But for eight years, the U.S. was saddled with an administration and congressional majority that stubbornly refused to take responsibility for our share of carbon emissions. The U.S. has paid dearly for its lack of action to tackle climate change in the form of lost prestige and good will around the world -- a loss that, as Sen. Kerry tells us, could curdle into outright anti-Americanism if we don't act soon:

Privately, we already hear the simmering resentment of diplomats whose countries bear the costs of our emissions. I can tell you from my own experience: it is real, and it is prevalent. It’s not hard to see how this could crystallize into a virulent, dangerous, public anti-Americanism. That’s a threat, too. Remember: the very places least responsible for climate change—and least equipped to deal with its impacts—will be among the very worst affected.

Since the election of President Barack Obama, the U.S. has been moving (slowly, but surely) in the right direction on climate -- a fact that was recognized by the Nobel Prize Committee last Friday. But we need to do more. We need the Senate to pass comprehensive climate and clean energy legislation ASAP, and we need President Obama to use his considerable leadership skills to help pass a global climate treaty in Copenhagen later this year. The threat to global security is that urgent.

-- 1Sky online communications coordinator Luis Hestres

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