Yesterday the Pentagon launched a plan to deal with a threat that “poses immediate risks to national security”; one that “will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the nation”.
It wasn’t referring to Ebola or ISIS.
It was referring to climate change.
Launching a 20-page Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel labelled global warming a “threat multiplier” that’s likely to exacerbate risks from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty and food shortages.
What’s significant about the report is the characterization of climate change as a current threat demanding immediate action, rather than a future risk.
It frames climate change as a serious near-term challenge for strategic military operations.
The Pentagon will from now on integrate climate change threats into all of its plans, operations, and training across the entire Defense Department.
Hagel: “The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere. Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration”.
Essentially, we could soon be fighting climate wars.
The cataclysmic situation in Syria has already been traced back to climate change. The historic drought that afflicted the country from 2006-2010 killed up to 85 percent of livestock in some regions and forced hundreds of villages to be abandoned due to crop failures.
More than 1.3 million people were affected – driven from their homes into the cities -frightened, angry and hungry.
Now we’re witnessing a dire humanitarian crisis for millions of Syrians, ISIS’ shadow stretching longer and Obama warning of “a long-term campaign” to defeat it.
As the Pentagon’s roadmap acknowledges, there’s still some uncertainty around future climate projections. But it warns “this cannot be an excuse for delaying action. Every day, our military deals with global uncertainty. Our planners know that, as military strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote, ‘all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight‘.
In response to Obama’s call for backup over ISIS, John Key seems to be asking how high he should jump. The questions is, when will his Government start taking the threat of climate change as seriously?