Speaking to this year’s graduating class of the Coast Guard Academy in New London, Connecticut, President Barack Obama called climate change “a serious threat to global security” and “an immediate risk to our national security.”
And, he added, “Make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now.”
It seems clear that the president’s concern about the issue has been heating up in recent months. First, there were the new fuel economy standards of 54.5 miles per gallon, then the Clean Power Plan giving the EPA the power to regulate CO2 from power plants, followed by the agreement with China setting a target to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 26 to 28 percent below 2005 levels by 2025. His climate action plan is spelled out on this website devoted to the issue.
In Wednesday’s speech, he cast the issue as both immediate and far-reaching.
"This is not just a problem for countries on the coast or for certain regions of the world," Obama said. "Climate change will impact every country on the planet.”
Tying droughts and crop damage to unrest in Africa and the Middle East, the president labeled efforts to reduce the worst impacts of climate change both a "key pillar of American global leadership" and "a core element of our diplomacy."
He didn’t shy from taking aim at Republicans in Congress dragging their feet and refusing to take action, comparing them to a ship’s captain who ignores the fact that his ship is headed toward the rocks.
"You don’t sit back; you take steps to protect your ship," he said. "Anything less is a dereliction of duty. The same is true for climate change." (He’d obviously been reading my blog last week.)
Even as atmospheric levels of CO2 exceeded 400 parts per million for the first time in human history, Republicans in the House put forward a budget for NASA that would cut the Earth Science program, which monitors planetary conditions, including temperature and sea level, by $300 million.
The president, doing all he can to overcome efforts by Republicans in Congress and their supporters in the media to sweep the issue under the rug, also talked about the economic threat being posed by rising sea levels. "In Miami and [Charleston, South Carolina], streets now flood at high tide. Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways, roads, railways and energy facilities are vulnerable." It’s estimated that "a further increase in sea level of one foot — just one foot — by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.”
Circling back to the military, he pointed out: "Around [Norfolk, Virginia], high tides and storms increasingly flood parts of our Navy base and an air base. In Alaska, thawing permafrost is damaging military facilities. Out West, deeper droughts and longer wildfires could threaten training areas our troops depend on."
Finally, the president is taking this message out to the streets, where people from all walks of life can hear it. If only this had been done 10 or 15 years ago, we would be in a much better position to address the issue and the consequences would have been less severe.
Image credit: Tyler Driscoll: Flickr Creative Commons
RP Siegel, author and inventor, shines a powerful light on numerous environmental and technological topics. His work has appeared in Triple Pundit, GreenBiz, Justmeans, CSRWire, Sustainable Brands, Grist, Strategy+Business, Mechanical Engineering, Design News, PolicyInnovations, Social Earth, Environmental Science, 3BL Media, ThomasNet, Huffington Post, Eniday, and engineering.com among others . He is the co-author, with Roger Saillant, of Vapor Trails, an adventure novel that shows climate change from a human perspective. RP is a professional engineer - a prolific inventor with 53 patents and President of Rain Mountain LLC a an independent product development group. RP was the winner of the 2015 Abu Dhabi Sustainability Week blogging competition. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org