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Secretary Mattis Clear-Eyed on Climate Security Risks

James_MattisToday, ProPublica’s Andrew Revkin published a story on written testimony from Secretary of Defense James Mattis to the Senate Armed Services Committee (responses to the so-called Questions for the Record, or QFRs) wherein he strongly reaffirms the Pentagon’s practical stance on climate change: it’s a security risk that must be dealt with today – not at some distant point in the future. This builds on Department of Defense (DoD) assessments going all the way back to 1990, and makes clear that for the U.S. military, the matter is neither partisan nor ideological, but rather, a significant threat in the geostrategic landscape that the DoD has a responsibility to address.

According to the article:

Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.

The article goes on to quote a number of Secretary Mattis’ responses which detail the readiness, operational and strategic risks climate change poses to the U.S. military. A few excerpts.

On climate change, instability and the Combatant Commands:

Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today. It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.

Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.

On the need for a whole-of-government response:

As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.

On operations, threat assessments, resources and readiness:

I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.

The Center for Climate and Security applauds Secretary Mattis for his practical approach to this critical matter of national security.


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