Climate Change and National Security

Former military officials warn climate change could lead to wars.

ByABC News
May 9, 2007, 4:23 PM

May 11, 2007 — -- Climate change will cause dwindling freshwater supplies, food shortages, political instability and other conflicts that U.S. military strategists should be planning for now, several former high-ranking military officials told Congress on Wednesday.

"Our view is that climate change could be a threat multiplier in every global region," Gen. Charles F. Wald, the former deputy commander for the U.S. European Command, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.

It's an issue getting more attention in Congress.

Today, the House of Representatives passed an intelligence bill that includes a provision requiring spy agencies to study the impact of global warming on national security.

"It would be irresponsible for us to ignore the warnings of Generals and Admirals who have spent a lifetime on battlefields and who are telling us global warming has the potential to threaten our future security," said Rep. Edward Markey (D-Ma.) in a statement.

Republicans argue the measure will shift intelligence resources away from more important tasks like fighting terrorism.

Witnesses at Wednesday's hearing warned that if nothing is done, a warming climate could lead to an influx of Latin American immigrants to the U.S. border, and could also trigger violent conflicts in Africa and the Middle East over resources, potentially aggravating terrorism.

Wald and two other highly decorated retired military officials told lawmakers that climate change was indeed happening, could worsen many of the causes of instability in the world and should be taken seriously by government.

"I doubt very many people in the military have spent as much time thinking about it as we have, but I think there's a sense that we need to start changing our approach," said Wald.

Retired Vice Adm. Richard Truly, a former astronaut who once headed NASA and the Naval Space Command, said that an ice-free Arctic Ocean could be a new concern for the U.S. Navy -- a battleground of sorts where nations fiercely compete for oil and gas resources once off limits because of the ice.

"That's an example of the type of international issue that will have to be dealt with because of climate change," Truly said.

The witnesses also called for addressing energy policy at home, as well as the nation's reliance on fossil fuels. They urged the United States to begin making serious efforts to develop secure and clean sources of energy to reduce the greenhouse gases that cause global warming.

In addition, they said the United States must work with developing countries, especially China and India, who rely on fossil fuels to feed their energy-hungry economies.