Republicans bury their head in sand, betting lives that climate change isn't real

Republicans bury their head in sand, betting lives that climate change isn't real

In mid-June, Congress passed an amendment to the Department of Defense authorization bill to block funding for military planning to prepare for climate change.  Every Democrat voted against the amendment, but almost every Republican, including those in the Texas delegation, voted for it, thus denying critical resources to our military. 

This amendment is a serious mistake, and now we can only hope that the Senate does not agree to adopt it in conference committee. We expect our military to keep us safe, now and in the future, and that requires planning. They deserve our full support in that incredibly difficult mission.    

The amendment to block funding for this vital planning is a mistake for at least three reasons:

First, it undermines our military.  Since the George W. Bush Administration, the Department of Defense has identified climate change as a serious threat. Climate change is expected to cause a host of security issues, including water and food shortages, mass migrations of people, humanitarian crises and conflict over water resources. Rising sea levels are expected to endanger critical naval infrastructure. Texas has 367 miles of coastline, rising seas will affect us directly. Climate change has serious implications for threat development, weapons acquisition and personnel training. Our military fully recognizes these challenges, and has identified the need for careful planning to prepare for them. Even Republican mayors in Florida are starting to work on raising their street levels and considering the impact rising waters are already having on their towns. This is responsible management, and we should support it.

Second, blocking planning now will cost more money and create more risk in the future.  According to a report by Politico, military experts say that effective planning now would save money in the long run. Failing to account for the effects of climate change will also create the risk that the military is ill-prepared for future engagements, lacking the right equipment, skills and strategies to respond to future challenges. That means more resources will be required and, even more concerning, risks will be higher than necessary.

Third, this action ignores the reality of climate change and the will of the American people. The vast majority of climate scientists have concluded that climate change is a serious risk, as have the climate experts working for the military. Republicans in Congress have frequently said that they “are not scientists”, but they seem to have no trouble overruling the experts who are, or listening only to the small percentage of scientists who are paid by the fossil fuel industry. (“Follow the money.”) According to recent surveys, a large majority of Americans are concerned about climate change and want to see action taken.  A November 2015 poll by the New York Time and CBS found that 75% of Americans believe climate change is having a serious impact on our environment now or will in the future.  A January 2015 New York Times poll found that 74% of Americans believe the Federal government should be taking action on climate change.  In ignoring the need for long range planning around climate change, this action by Congress is out of step with the reality of climate science and the American people.

Some in Congress defended the amendment by saying that climate change planning would “distract from combatting ISIS.”  But the military does not and never has had the luxury of focusing on just one thing.  Our military must constantly prepare for a wide range of risks across the globe, both now and in the future.  According to David Titley, a retired Rear Admiral and former senior-level military scientist, the military is capable of responding to ISIS and planning for climate change at the same time. “When you are running an organization of $600 plus billion, you have a lot of people and need to consider a lot of things.” It would be irresponsible for our military to focus so much on one current threat that they fail to plan for future threats. 

Responsible long-range planning is just common sense, and is especially critical when it comes to military planning to keep our country safe now and in the future.  We should support the military in this effort. This seems to be more of the “block anything Obama” track, but the military first IDed climate change as a serious threat during George W. Bush’s presidency. It shouldn’t be about politics, but Republicans are playing political football with our country’s (and therefore our children’s) future. This is not responsible governance, and should not be allowed to stand.



Posted on 29 Jun 2016, 8:16 - Category: Responsible Governance

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