Twenty-two House Democrats announced Feb. 15 that they’re forming a Safe Climate Caucus. A member of the caucus will speak on the House floor about the effects of climate change every day that the chamber is in session.
Two days before, 50 people — including actress Daryl Hannah — were arrested after handcuffing themselves to the gates of the White House in a climate change protest.
And on Sunday, thousands of people bused into Washington from all over the country to march on the National Mall to urge Congress to work with the president to “start his second term with strong climate action.”
Too often, our efforts to address the dangers of climate change have been obstructed by theatrics from groups on both sides of the spectrum attempting to politicize the issue.
As a retired colonel in the U.S. Army who served in Kosovo, Iraq and Afghanistan, I’ve identified and confronted national security threats my entire career. Addressing climate change is a national security imperative that will take more than a divided offensive; it requires immediate action and cooperation across the political spectrum on Capitol Hill and at the White House.
A consensus of national security and military leaders recognize climate change as a threat to our national security. As the Department of Defense reported, climate change will “act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” Rising coastlines will create refugee crises in some of the world’s poorest countries. More frequent and extreme weather events, like the devastating flood in Pakistan in 2010 or Hurricane Sandy last year, will drain budgets and cost lives. Resource scarcity will spark conflict and raze fragile states across the globe. A lack of food and clean water will cause populations to migrate, and that is a harbinger of war.
The U.S. military will be involved in nearly every crisis precipitated or exacerbated by climate change, whether to provide disaster relief and recovery assistance at home, secure vital strategic interests abroad, or maintain international shipping lanes that are the lifeblood of global commerce. The U.S. will continue to rely on our military installations and garrisoned personnel as the first line of defense to citizens displaced by increasingly vicious storms. Every day, our armed forces grow more involved in counterterrorism activities in climate hot spots, like the battle against al-Qaida in the Islamic Maghreb. Our men and women in uniform will have to bear this burden, and we must come together to lessen the weight.
Rep. Elijah Cummings, D-Md., right, hugs Harold Schaitberger, General President of the International Association of Fire Fighters, after the Congressman spoke at the IAFF's Legislative Conference General Session at the Hyatt Regency on Capitol Hill, March 9, 2015. The day featured addresses by members of Congress and Vice President Joe Biden.