By Bryan Bender, Globe Staff
WASHINGTON — Massive crop devastation, melting glaciers, water shortages, millions of displaced people — all of these will drag the US military into conflict if global climate change goes unchecked, a Senate panel was warned today.
The Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearing, convened by Senator John F. Kerry of Massachusetts, focused on what so far has received only modest attention in the climate change debate: the effect it is bound to have on national defense.
“Addressing the consequences of changes in the Earth’s climate is not simply about saving polar bears or preserving the beauty of mountain glaciers,” retired Navy Vice Adm. Lee F. Gunn, president of the American Security Project, told the panel. “Climate change is a threat to our national security.”
Gunn and other military specialists said that climate change could have broad effects on how the US military operates. It will likely expand the number of humanitarian missions the Pentagon will have to undertake, they said, and even change how it deploys its fighting forces.
For example, they warned that rising sea levels could swamp critical US military bases in the Indian Ocean and even the headquarters of the Atlantic Fleet in Norfolk, Va., which could be under water after just a one-meter rise in the ocean level.
From Africa to the Middle East and South Asia, dramatic changes in the weather will stress already unstable nations, creating what Gunn called “climate conflicts.”
“International conflicts over resources, due to migrants, and/or as a means of distraction are not only likely,” he added, “but likely to exacerbate the underlying climate change problem.”
Kerry, since he took the helm of the committee earlier this year, has made addressing climate change a top priority. Several specialists said today that elevating the security aspect will help garner the kind of support necessary to make the difficult changes in energy and other global policies to stabilize the climate.
Sharon E. Burke, vice president for natural security at the Center for a New American Security, testified that the hearing was “an important demonstration of the fact that global climate change is now taken seriously as a strategic challenge.”
Kerry, for his part, pledged to keep the shining the light on the issue.
“If we fail to connect the dots — if we fail to take action — the simple, indisputable reality is that we will find ourselves living not only in a ravaged environment, but also in a much more dangerous world,” he said.
Correction: This item has been revised because of a reporting error that misstated the title for Sharon E. Burke, vice president for natural security at the Center for a New American Security.
Kerry’s full opening statement is below:
Kerry panel looks at climate change and national security – National Politics Blog – Political Intelligence – Boston.com.