In a hearing yesterday before the Senate Armed Services Committee, Army General Curtis M. Scaparrotti, Commander of United States European Command and NATO’s Supreme Allied Commander Europe, and Army General Stephen R. Lyons, Commander of United States Transportation Command, both agreed with the U.S. intelligence community’s assessment that climate change is a security threat. This is despite a current National Security Council attempt to impose a political test on that national security analysis, which was denounced yesterday by a group of 58 senior military, national security and intelligence leaders with experience across Republican and Democratic Administrations.
See a transcript of the exchange below (video here):
Sen. Warren: “So I want to discuss a national security threat that can’t be addressed by traditional military power at all, and that is climate change. The unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment by the Director of National Intelligence, and I’m gonna quote here: ‘global environmental and ecological degradation as well as climate change are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.’ End quote. That assessment also said, quote: ‘damage to communication, energy and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life.’ I’ve asked this question to other combatant commander, so I want to make sure that I get this on the record. General Scaparrotti and General Lyons, do you agree with the intelligence community’s assessment of the climate change threat?”
General Scaparrotti: “I do, and I believe that, as you noted, much of this will be drivers for potential conflict, or at least very difficult situations that nations have to deal with. The second, I would point you to the High North. And that’s the increasing opening of the northern sea route and the challenges that presents from a security perspective.”
Sen. Warren: “Yes, thank you. Thank you. General Lyons, do you also agree?”
General Lyons: “Ma’am, I agree. These are sources of conflict and we certainly have to be prepared to respond to them.”
Sen. Warren: “Good. Could I then ask each of you very briefly, because we have very limited time, just to describe how climate change impacts your operations in your commands and what you’re doing to adapt to these changes? General Scaparrotti, would you like to start?”
General Scaparrotti: “Well, I think the most apparent to me is the one that I noted, and that’s in the Arctic. We’re going, we are seeing longer periods of time that the Northern Sea Route is open. And so as a part of that there’s an increased interest in commercial and resource capabilities there. China, for instance, is pressing to get into the High North and have some presence there. And so that creates competition. Russia, because that Northern Sea Route is the one that follows most closely to their borders, has increases, re-opened 10 of their airports there. They now have radar systems up. They’ve begun to move, on periodic times, different weapons systems up there for control of the area. So those are all things that I have to bring into my planning.”
Sen. Warren: “That’s serious! So, and, what has been your response to that? Briefly.”
General Scaparrotti: “Well, briefly, we’ve changed – we’ve updated our plans as a response, as a result of that. We’ve had to change the posture of some of our forces. We’ve changed our operational patterns so that we in fact deter when we send a signal of the importance of the Arctic to us. Those are just some of the way, day to day, that we’ve made changes in our normal routine in order to demonstrate significant capability in the Arctic.”
Sen Warren: “Thank you! General Lyons.”
General Lyons: “Ma’am, anything that degrades our ability to project and sustain power globally at our time and place of choosing is a concern, and we know that we have to operate in any conditions whatsoever.”
Sen Warren: “So, what are you doing by way of response.”
General Lyons: “Ma’am, we… in other words, in our planning and so forth, we consider all environments. But more specific to General Scaparrotti’s point about the more scientific piece of it, is that’s a little bit out of my area of expertise.”
Sen Warren: “Fair enough. I really wasn’t looking for so much a scientific answer, but as General Scaparrotti said, how you have to kind of readjust where you are and what you’re doing. If I can, I just want to say, adapting to climate change impacts our military readiness and I’m glad you both take this threat seriously. I appreciate that.”
A portion of the exchange above was also covered by Scott Waldman at E&E News.