Talkin' National Security, Talkin' Climate Change
by Nathan Empsall, Tue Feb 02, 2010 at 02:07:13 AM EST
(For those too busy to read to the end of this post, the news take-away is this: the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review, to be presented to Congress today, declares global warming a “destabilizing force,” one that will place “a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” The need for a clean energy bill is about health, jobs, agriculture, poverty, and the environment, but there are many unique reasons why, perhaps above all, it is about national security. But don't take my word for it - the Pentagon says so.)
According to Mother Jones, conservative word-meister Frank Luntz’s latest project is to help pass a national clean energy bill. His message to environmentalists is that the best way to help fight climate change is to stop talking about climate change and instead frame the solution in non-environmental terms – not “green jobs,” but “American jobs.”
Luntz's report, "The Language of a Clean Energy Economy," finds that the majority of the public across the political spectrum is convinced that global warming is happening and caused at least in part by humans. But, Luntz says, talking about the problem won't win support for the legislation that would solve it. Among both Democrats and Republicans polled by his firm, addressing climate change was the least important reason to support a cap-and-trade policy.
So what should environmentalists say instead? Luntz suggests less talk of dying polar bears and more emphasis on how legislation will create jobs, make the planet healthier and decrease US dependence on foreign oil. Advocates should emphasize words like "cleaner," "healthier," and "safer"; scrap "green jobs" in favor of "American jobs," and ditch terms like "sustainability" and "carbon neutral" altogether. "It doesn't matter if there is or isn't climate change," he said. "It's still in America's best interest to develop new sources of energy that are clean, reliable, efficient and safe."
The Big Picture
Luntz’s advice is not just stylistic; it is also substantive. I love this earth as it existed before and will exist after us, but there’s far more at stake here than the environmental nature of creation. The drive for clean energy legislation is about health: coal-fired power plants kill 24,000 Americans and cause 550,000 asthma attacks each year. It is about the economy: Renewable energy legislation could create at least 1.7 million jobs. It is about agriculture: If climate change continues unabated, the Midwest will warm more than any other part of the country, bringing deep drought and harmful insects to America’s breadbasket. It is about poverty: Third world nations are unequipped to handle the looming refugee crises and water shortages that will inevitably come with climate change.
Perhaps most important to the American mindset is that clean energy legislation is about national security. The threat posed by our addiction to foreign oil is well known. Water, however, could soon replace oil as the scarcest commodity in the Middle East and Africa, sparking brutal water wars – and where there are wars, there are often U.S. peacekeepers. The CIA began collecting intelligence on climate change last year, and the Navy is concerned both with the current effects of warmer waters on submarine sonar and the future prospect of more waters to guard thanks to melting Arctic sea ice. Our greatest competitor on the international stage, China, is well ahead of us in the development of its clean energy industry, and Chevy Volt batteries are made in Korea.
And yet for all that, the biggest national security-climate change news came out only yesterday. In its Quadrennial Defense Review, the Pentagon has declared global warming to be a “destabilizing force,” warning that at least 30 U.S. military installations are threatened by rising sea levels, an increased number of disasters will stretch our humanitarian missions thin, and more. The Guardian reports:
The quadrennial defense review, prepared by the Pentagon to update Congress on its security vision, will direct military planners to keep track of the latest climate science, and to factor global warming into their long term strategic planning. "While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden on civilian institutions and militaries around the world," said a draft of the review seen by the Guardian.
Heat waves and freak storms could put increasing demand on the US military to respond to humanitarian crises or natural disaster. But troops could feel the effects of climate change even more directly, the draft says. More than 30 US bases are threatened by rising sea levels. It ordered the Pentagon to review the risks posed to installations, and to combat troops by a potential increase in severe heat waves and fires…
"Our dependence on fuel adds significant cost and puts US soldiers and contractors at risk," said Dorothy Robyn, deputy undersecretary of defense for the environment. "Energy can be a matter of life and death and we have seen dramatically in Iraq and Afghanistan the cost of heavy reliance on fossil fuels." She told a conference call on Friday the Pentagon would seek to cut greenhouse gas emissions from non-combat operations by 34% from 2008 levels by 2020.
There is a reason the Truman National Security Project, VoteVets.org, and other military-focused institutions have teamed together to sponsor Operation FREE, a coalition of veterans who travel the country explaining the security-based need for clean energy legislation. There is a reason that Generals Brent Scowcroft and Wes Clark have endorsed Al Gore’s Repower America project. And there is a reason that the Department of Defense has an entire webpage devoted to effort to go green.
The next time your conservative friends claim they’re strong on defense and national security, just ask them where they stand on the American Clean Energy and Security Act.