General Ron Keys, United States Air Force (ret), in his capacity as Advisory Board member with the Center for Climate and Security and Chairman of the CNA Advisory Board, recently opened up the annual Common Good Forum with an excellent speech titled “Planning for Disaster – Climate Change and National Security.” In the speech, General Keys emphasized that the U.S. military doesn’t play politics with climate change and energy security, because it doesn’t have that luxury. The U.S. military looks at both climate change and energy security through the lens of how they effect its capacity to do its job as a war-fighter and humanitarian responder. A few key passages from the General:
9:50: “We’ve got a lot of bases around the world, and there are a lot of them that are on the coast. And so we start to look at: What are the impacts of climate change on basing? Because just as you live in a village or city, a town, that’s what we live in. Our ports and our forts and our bases. And we have looked at the situation seriously, and we have 19 bases that we consider jewels in our crown of capability that are going to be affected by sea level rise. And it doesn’t have to rise eight feet. It only has to rise a couple of inches, and a good nor’easter pulls in, and all of a sudden we’re under water. If you look at Langley Air Force Base where our Raptors reside, it’s only seven feet above mean sea level right now. The problem is, the land is subsiding, sea level is rising, the currents are changing. We could, in about fifteen years, have 100 days of tidal flooding. Which means with just the normal high tide, we lose access to certain parts of our base. And it gets worse and worse and worse and worse. So we look at that and say: We need to start considering, what can we do? Now I can build a moat, or a barrier around Langley Air Force Base, but the problem is a lot of my people live in Newport News, live in Hampton. A lot of my electricity comes in from outside. My fuel comes in from outside. So at some point we get to the point: ‘I’ve got to move to higher ground.’ And we have started talking that just because that’s going to be a bloodletting when we tell the Congressman from Virginia that we’re picking up Langley Air Force Base and we’re going to Oklahoma. That’s not going to play well. So we need to start talking about that.”
12:07: “We see this [climate change] as a catalyst for conflict. If you look around the world, in a broader sense other than the direct impacts you’re going to have on our military force and basing and training, is that we’re on the fire lines in the Western United States a lot more than we were. Now if that’s what you want your military to do, we will go and do, and we will train to do that. But that takes away from a fireline somewhere else that might be much more serious. So it’s a big draw on our forces. But it also starts to impact your equipping. If we’re going to go and do these kinds of things, and rescue people floating around on screen doors in New Orleans, then we’re going to have to have certain kinds of specialized equipment to do that. And more of it. Which will then take away from the specialized equipment we use to go and fight and win America’s wars.”
15:05: “We think it’s serious. It’s important to us as the military. We think it’s even more important to all of us as a nation.”
To watch the entire speech, click here or see the embedded video below. It begins around the 3:40 mark.