Thinking of climate change and its subsequent effects as a national security threat is a growing global trend. A Pew Research Center study from June shows that climate change is viewed as the number one threat to national governments according to a selection of international respondents. Pew stated that "[p]ublics around the world are concerned about the effect of global climate change and international financial instability." U.S. respondents ranked global warming behind North Korea's nuclear program, Islamic extremist groups and Iran's nuclear program. This is in stark contrast to countries around the world that viewed climate change as a top priority. It is the top concern in every country in Latin America and in the top three in most European countries.
While the American public might rank climate change behind other national security issues, the U.S. military does not. A recent report by the U.S. Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) stated that climate change is a bigger national security threat than the country's dependence on foreign oil. Retired Marine Corps Brig. Gen. Stephen Cheney, of the American Security Project, stated in an interview that "rising sea levels and extreme drought could be just as dangerous as terrorists and crises."
These reports shouldn't come as a surprise. The recent devastation inflicted by superstorms and natural disasters have had a tremendous human and financial impact on governments. Superstorm Sandy alone heaped $50 billion worth of damage and destruction onto the northeast and mid-Atlantic. Most recently, droughts and wildfires in Nevada, Arizona and California have been brought on by widespread heat waves, caused by an unprecedented rise in temperatures (which could peak at 130 degrees in some areas of the US).
The U.S. military report by the CNA outlines one key solution to combat climate change. It stated that the American public and its politicians need to be educated on the realities of a changing climate. In order to create action on a global scale, our people have to fully understand the issue and accept the facts. That means silencing the climate deniers and moving back to a time when creating environmental policy was a non-partisan issue.
Now that our Department of Defense and our President have signed on to combating climate change, the only question is when the American public will follow suit.