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Home » climate and security » Release: Military and National Security Leaders Strongly Criticize Politicized “Presidential Committee on Climate Security”

Release: Military and National Security Leaders Strongly Criticize Politicized “Presidential Committee on Climate Security”

3rd_maw_marines_continue_battle_against_wildfires_140516-m-vp013-003

3rd Marine Aircraft Wing assists in firefighting as wildfires spread through Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton. 16 May 2014 Photo by Sgt. Isaac Lamberth

Washington, DC, February 20, 2019 — A non-partisan group of senior retired military and national security leaders at the Council on Strategic Risks’ Center for Climate and Security (CCS) strongly criticized the White House’s politically-motivated draft Executive Order (EO) to establish a Presidential Committee on Climate Security (PCSS). According to descriptions of the draft by the The Washington Post, the PCSS would be chaired by a vocal climate denier that reports to the President. CCS also learned that the committee would allegedly provide “adversarial” peer review to reports coming from the intelligence, defense, science and other agencies. The group centered its criticism on these two elements which render the PCSS neither rigorous nor independent.

“This is the equivalent of setting up a committee on nuclear weapons proliferation and having someone lead it who doesn’t think nuclear weapons exist,” said Francesco Femia, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Strategic Risks and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security in an interview with The Washington Post. “It’s honestly a blunt force political tool designed to shut the national security community up on climate change.”

“Looks like someone at the White House doesn’t like the fact that our defense and intelligence agencies are concerned about the security implications of climate change,” said John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security and former Acting Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment. “So they want to set up a politically-led panel to undermine the credibility of military and security experts.  They don’t seem to understand that to the military and to the broader security community, this is an issue of risk, readiness, and resilience, not politics.  The military doesn’t have the luxury of deciding to ignore certain threats because a politician doesn’t find them convenient.”

“For over 7 decades, our Nation has been the instrument of change in establishing world order in the face of fascism, communism and terrorism.  The human toll from these “isms” has been catastrophic and those of us who have served in public office and in uniform can be rightfully proud for taking decisive action to right those wrongs.  But to deny the trajectory of the global climate defies America’s bias for action as a catalyst for change among world leaders.” – Admiral Paul Zukunft, U.S. Coast Guard (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Commandant of the Coast Guard

“Our intelligence, defense and science agencies stretching back across many Administrations, both Republican and Democrat – including the Trump Administration itself are closely aligned.  The science and facts on climate change are well-established and do not need an administration influenced review by an NSC headed panel. What we do need are practical and pragmatic policy choices today to fix the problem. Americans are affected everyday by climate change and will see through any thinly-veiled political attempt to say they are not. An NSC-headed panel to address solutions is what we need.” – General Ron Keys, US Air Force (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Commander of Air Combat Command

“This is not a real peer review committee – it’s a political review committee,” said Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy. “It’s designed to try to scare our intelligence, defense and science professionals into doing and saying nothing about this pressing threat. I don’t think it will succeed. In fact, I think it would be an embarrassment, like other panels before it.”

“It’s hard to stop good people from doing good work – especially those in the defense, intelligence and science agencies of our government,” said Sherri Goodman, Senior Strategist with the Center for Climate and Security and former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security). “One way to try to stop them is through bullying. This proposed ‘adversarial’ committee is a bully committee. And whether it succeeds or not, it will hurt our national security. Hopefully, cooler heads will prevail.”

“With VERY few exceptions, national security experts and earth scientists know that climate change is real, and it is a real threat to national security – now and in the future.  This is well documented and well-publicized.  There is probably more disagreement in the national security community about the existence of UFOs than there is about this.”Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy

“The proposed committee appears to be a politically-motivated attempt to discourage our intelligence, defense and science agencies from doing their jobs,” said Captain Steve Brock, USN (Ret), Senior Advisor, the Council on Strategic Risks and the Center for Climate and Security. “If realized, this committee could force a blind spot onto those whose job it is to defend this country, and that could have dangerous national security repercussions. I hope the White House reconsiders, and dumps this bad idea.”

“We would welcome a rigorous and independent panel of credible climate and national security experts to study the security implications of climate change” said Francesco Femia, Chief Executive Officer of the Council on Strategic Risks and Co-Founder of the Center for Climate and Security. “However, this is not that. The proposed committee is intended to provide an ‘adversarial’ review of already rigorously-reviewed reports from the intelligence, defense, science and presumably other agencies, and will be chaired by a vocal climate skeptic that reports to the President. Therefore, it will be neither independent nor rigorous.”

“This effort meets the definition of insanity—doing the same thing over and over and expecting a different result. No matter who is the President, our national security agencies have uniformly recognized the security threat from climate change. That question has been answered. Now is the time for action to address the risks.” – Alice Hill, Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Senior Director for Resilience Policy on the National Security Council

“It’s important to note the person behind this attempt to chill our defense agencies from understanding and managing climate risk is Dr. Will Happer.  Dr. Happer testified before Congress in December 2015 that the world has too little Carbon Dioxide and is too cold – an extreme, fringe view even for the tiny number of scientists who call themselves climate skeptics.  This is a clumsy attempt to force the entire federal government to conform to a bizarre view thoroughly rejected by the vast majority of scientists.” – Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy

“Even if this committee is successful for a year or two suppressing the acknowledgment of a changing climate as a security risk, the risks will continue to accelerate.  The climate does not care what the White House thinks or what Executive Orders are signed – it only responds to the laws of physics.  The temperatures will continue to warm, the ice will continue to melt and the seas will continue to rise.  And our county will be less secure if we prevent our very own federal agencies from responding to this threat.” – Rear Admiral David Titley, US Navy (Ret), Senior Member of the Advisory Board at the Center for Climate and Security and former Oceanographer of the Navy

The Trump Administration alone has issued three Worldwide Threat Assessments that acknowledge the security risks of climate change, three Department of Defense reports on climate change, three GAO reports on climate and security, and a USAID report on global fragility and climate risks. All have been produced through comprehensive processes with rigorous reviews. President Trump also signed into law a 2018 National Defense Authorization Act that stated: Changing climate is a “direct threat” to U.S. national security.  Further, at least twenty-one senior defense officials during the current Administration have publicly highlighted the security risks of climate change, including the former Secretary of Defense and the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

The proposed committee would therefore pit the White House against the intelligence, defense and science agencies it’s supposed to be leading.

More info: See the Center for Climate and Security’s Chronology of U.S. Military Statements and Actions on Climate Change and Security: 2017-2019

Available for press inquiries:

  • John Conger, Director, The Center for Climate and Security
  • Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Ret), The Center for Climate and Security
  • Francesco Femia, Chief Executive Officer, The Council on Strategic Risks

Contact: Francesco “Frank” Femia, ffemia at climateandsecurity dot org

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