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Military Preparedness and Global Warming

Arkansas Pols in particular and the Republican dominated congress more generally don’t seem to think much of the risk of global warming. Jim Inhofe, the ranking member of the Environment and Public Works Committee in the US Senate famously said something to the effect that global warming is the greatest hoax ever played on the American people. Actually he said this hoax was second only to the separation of church and state, but we’ll save that for another discussion.

The Environmental Protection Agency begs to differ. After years of planning they have released a clean power plan aimed to curb the release of Carbon Dioxide from the burning of fossil fuels. This will not only reduce the risk of global warming but also clean our air of a number of pollutants harmful to health.

Another agency that disagrees is the Pentagon. They think global warming is real and in fact have released a report ”2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.” Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, in an address to the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas said that “Rising global temperatures, increasing sea levels and intensifying weather events will challenge global stability and could lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease and disputes over refugees and resources.“

Secretary Hagel went on: “The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration.”

Without claiming that the troubles in the near east are due directly to global warming, it is true that climate change can only make a regional problem worse. There is no doubt that severe weather such as floods and droughts further stress difficulties in any society.

US military flood relief, Colorado 2013

US military flood relief, Colorado 2013

This report is only the latest is a number of reports addressing the risk of global warming. The report is however noteworthy in that for the first time the pentagon recognizes global warming as a real threat now, rather than something to be dealt with in the future.

US National Guard provied search and rescue for Hurricane Sandy

US National Guard provied search and rescue for Hurricane Sandy

The pentagon report has indicated that a number of consequences must be addressed. Coastal military installations that are vulnerable to flooding will need to be altered, humanitarian assistance missions will be more frequent in the face of more intense natural disasters, and weapons and other critical military equipment will need to work under more severe weather conditions.

Obviously there is considerable disagreement between the views of the senator from Oklahoma and the leadership of the mightiest military in the world concerning the real risk of global warming. When such dissonance occurs we each have to decide who to believe. On the one hand we have congress, with an approval rating near single digits and on the other the military, sworn to protect us. It’s your call.