On 20 May 2015, US President Barack Obama publicly stated that climate change is a major threat to the national security of the United States, observing that ‘Our military leaders — generals and admirals, active duty and retired — know it’s happening.‘
The US president re-stated what scientists have been telling us for years. No area of the world is immune to the impacts of climate change such as extreme storms, food and water shortages, drought and crop failure and forced migration of displaced people. He noted that this meant the military needed to prepare for a changed operating environment and raised new strategic challenges.
The US president’s speech has been greeted warmly by key institutions like The Center for Climate and Security. However John McCain, chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, criticised Obama for saying climate change was an immediate risk. Presumed Republican presidential frontrunner, former Florida Governor Jeb Bush, acknowledged a changing climate but emphasised that man’s role in climate change remained ‘convoluted’.
We at the CPD think Obama is right. The international community confronts a range of short- and long-term security challenges. Climate change is one of the most significant.
CPD itself is preparing to launch in June a major report on the security implications of climate change for Australia. Feel free, meanwhile, to watch an excerpt from Obama’s speech (courtesy of the Wall Street Journal).