Yesterday the Pentagon released a report identifying climate change as an “immediate” threat to national security, and outlining an “adaptation roadmap.”
As the New York Times observes, it is significant that Secretary Hagel is speaking to this issue at a time when Syria/Iraq/ISIS and Ebola are dominating the headlines. The article goes on to suggest that the Secretary’s highlighting this issue at a meeting of defense ministers this week in Peru “is aimed in part at building support for a U.N. agreement [on climate change and specifically, carbon emissions], to be signed next year in Paris…”. From a domestic standpoint, a recent Pew Center poll, cited by the Wall Street Journal in connection with the Pentagon report, indicates that “most Americans believe in climate change, but give it low priority.” WSJ notes further that, “The military is often a hotbed for ideas that the private sector and politicians later pick up…”.
The WSJ writes also that “the Arctic…is a region where climate change is most clearly evident.” Melting sea ice there and the ensuing opening of new sea lanes, has generated both interest and concern in the United States. As the country prepares to assume the chairmanship of the Arctic Council in 2015, and with the recent appointment of retired Commandant of the Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp as the first-ever U.S. Special Representative for the Arctic, these and other related issues will come increasingly to the fore. (See here for retired Admiral James Stavridis’ advice to Special Representative Papp.)