Top Military Officials Warn Climate Change Poses National Security Risk For The United States

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UPDATED: Thursday May 15, 2014 6:06 PM

A group of 16 retired three-star and four-star Admirals and Generals say climate change is now one of America's top security threats.

"This risk is marching on to a beat we're not in control of right now," said Retired Gen. Donald Hoffman. "The American people have a responsibility to be educated on the issue. When you do get educated on the issue, you unquestionably will understand that climate change is real. The evidence is out there."

The report points to the findings of 97 percent of scientists in the climate field who say the world is unequivocally warming.

"Speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty," said Retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan. "If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield."

Among the key findings in the detailed report by the CNA Military Advisory board:

  • The projected climate change impacts within the U.S. threaten homeland security.
  • Climate change impacts are already accelerating instability in vulnerable regions.
  • The projected impacts of climate change threaten major sectors of the U.S. economy.

"You can't take a wait and see attitude here, just because you don't have a coastline in Ohio," Hoffman told 10TV. "You will have weather events here that will impact quality of life in Ohio and the economy of Ohio."

The CNA board is comprised of many former George W. Bush administration military officials who concur with the findings.

"It's not hard to make the connection between climate change and instability, or climate change and terrorism," said Gen. Anthony Zinni, who served as an envoy during the Bush administration.

"Climate change is a national security issue because it affects the stability of certain places in the world," said Gen. Chuck Wald, deputy commander of U.S. European Command under President Bush.

During the Bush presidency, the military put into motion several plans to deal with climate events as the evidence started mounting.

"The issue of climate change respects no border," Bush said in 2001. "Its effects cannot be reined in by an army nor advanced by any ideology."

Former Brig. Gen. Steven Anderson, who describes himself as a conservative Republican, says the military is also weakened due to its dependence on fossil fuel - nearly 12 million gallons of oil a day.

"Our oil addiction, I believe, is our greatest threat to our national security," said Anderson. "Not just foreign oil, but oil in general."

Michael Breen is a former officer in the Army and now heads the Truman Project which issued the report on Wednesday in Columbus.

"The Iraqi insurgents were targeting our fuel supplies when I was there in 2003 and 2004," said Breen. "They knew we were dependent on liquid fuels to run generators and combat vehicles. They knew there was a convoy coming to our isolated combat outpost every day, and so they attacked that fuel convoy. We got into gun fights every day to bring that fuel in."

Breen says despite the political bickering in Washington, the military has been aggressively confronting the fuel problem on the battlefield.

As an example, he says the infantry in Afghanistan are using solar panels on combat outposts.

He also says that ignoring the changes in climate will increase the chances for terrorism.

"How do you protect vulnerable populations against terrorism when climate change is a silent enemy in that endeavor," Breen told 10TV. "The more crippled by floods and droughts and storms, the easier it is for a terrorist organization to prey on those folks."

Despite the military assessment, many conservatives don't buy it.

On his radio show Tuesday, Rush Limbaugh said called climate change a hoax.

"Critical thinking, just the application of critical thinking would expose it as a hoax," Limbaugh told his radio listeners. "Folks, there hasn't been any global warming for 17 years, zilch, zero, nada. There's a political agenda attached to all of this, and the political agenda is grow government, make government more powerful, and give government control over the way people live, because only government can stop this destruction."

Senator Marco Rubio, one of the leading Republican contenders for the White House in 2016, questioned this week the scientific research.

"I do not believe that human activity is causing these dramatic changes to our climate the way these scientists are portraying it," said Rubio. "I think severe weather has been a fact of life on Earth since man started recording history."

But experts like Lonnie Thompson, a renowned earth scientist from The Ohio State University, says the military isn't looking at this politically.

"We don't realize how much our whole society depends on climate, and the fact is the climate's changing," Thompson told 10TV. "Having a military that is prepared and looking into the future is critical."

Thompson says the experts in the earth's climate have reached their conclusions and are moving past the heated political debate that is ongoing.

"Scientists are very conservative people, we underestimate the changes," said Thompson. "I mean look at the Arctic. None of our models predicted how fast the sea ice was going to disappear. That, to me, is the scary part of this… is that the changes might be more rapid than we are planning for."

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