Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Once Again Raises Alarm Bells on Global Warming

If the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. Armed Forces tells you to worry about global warming would you?  I would sure pay attention.  So when Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently spoke on why the military is troubled by global warming we should listen.  In his recent speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies he stressed the two main reasons the military is concerned about global warming: (1) the true costs of securing oil; and (2) the instability that will from global warming. 

Watch the video (beginning at 15:14) and see below for key excerpts from this speech.

Energy Security and the costs of securing oil.  He stressed that:

" security presents an enduring challenge for our military and our nation…In my profession, this is not just about money.  The cost of fossil fuel manifests itself far more profoundly than just a heftier bill at the gas pump.  I’m acutely aware of the cost in both blood and treasure of providing energy to our forces in Afghanistan today.  Past headlines of fuel convoys being attacked attest to those vulnerabilities” [emphasis added].

Some steps that the military is taking to address its energy use.  Admiral Mullen went on to say:   

“I'm proud to share that the military is responding to this challenge with the sailing of the great green fleet in 2016, to deploying solar power in the field with the marines, to simply insulating roofs of the Army's overseas deployment structures which will save millions of dollars per month in air conditioning costs.” 

Instability from global warming.  He continued by outlining that:

"climate change’s potential impacts are sobering and far-reaching.  Glaciers are melting at a faster rate, causing water supplies to diminish in Asia. Rising sea levels could lead to a mass migration and displacement similar to what we saw in Pakistan’s floods last year.  And other shifts could reduce the arable land needed to feed a growing population in Africa, for example. Scarcity of water, food and space could create not only a humanitarian crisis, but create conditions that could lead to failed states, instability and, potentially, radicalization."  

So when you hear people (like in these recent Wall Street Journal or LA Times opinion pieces) question the reality of climate change or the potential instability that might arise, you might ask some key questions. Why does the military worry about global warming?  Why do people that build their whole operation around intelligence assessments and risks take this serious?  Why is a group that is so focused on addressing global conflicts concerned over global warming?  And why is this commentator, journalist, politician, business leader, or citizen not as concerned as the military about something so serious?


Hat tip to Nick Sundt at World Wildlife Fund – US for catching this and blogging it.

About the Authors

Jake Schmidt

Director, International program

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