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Climate Central’s Andrew Freedman recently reported on the U.S. Drought Monitor’s latest numbers, which reveal that “all categories of drought increased across the country between Nov. 20-27, with the largest increase occurring in an area from Alabama northeastward to Virginia.” Freedman also reports on a recent statement by Deutsche Bank Securities’ chief U.S. economist, Joseph LaVorgna, who predicted that “the drought will be responsible for a 0.5 to 1 percent drop in U.S. gross domestic product this year, a significant drop considering the relatively slow pace of growth throughout the year.”
Also, as we have written previously, the drought may have worrying security implications for other countries that are tied to the U.S. through the global food market. And given that a number of these countries have themselves experienced major droughts recently (Russia, Ukraine, Kazakhstan, Spain, Argentina), this prolonged U.S. drought could have serious global consequences.
The Atlantic ran a piece by Neil Bhatiya of the Century Foundation on Friday, which focuses on “why the extreme risk and uncertainty of rapid climate change requires a new national-security framework.” The most interesting recommendation from Bhatiya centers on the role of the National Security Council in addressing climate risk:
The best first step the president can take is to create a new structure within the foreign policy bureaucracy, answerable to his National Security Council, which will prioritize contingency planning and make recommendations across multiple departments and agencies so that U.S. foreign policy can seriously address a whole series of coming climate catastrophes.
Meanwhile, the Bipartisan Policy Center previewed one of its own recommendations (the full recommendations will not be publicly released until after the inauguration), centered on energy security. Former Senator Bryan Dorgan (D-ND), and former Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott (R-MS), called for the:
…formation of a National Energy Strategy Council in the White House…Chaired by the Secretary of Energy, the council would bring together the heads of at least 15 agencies with substantive energy responsibilities to hash out policy.
Both of these recommendations are worth considering. Also worth considering would be for the White House to develop a broader leadership framework for addressing both climate and energy security, given the inherent connections between the two. This could include, for example, the creation of a Deputy National Security Advisor that handles the environment, energy and climate change.
CleanTechnica has posted an interesting article detailing five key reasons why U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan appreciate and use solar power technology. The top-line reasons identified are:
1. Solar Power Saves Money
2. Solar Power Saves Planes and Trucks
3. Solar Power Saves Wear and Tear
4. Solar Power is Just Plain Better
5. Solar Power Builds Strong Communities
We would add “solar power saves lives” to that list, given the human cost of protecting fuel convoys in theater. As Department of Defense officials revealed after a review in 2011, “over 3,000 American soldiers or contractors were killed in fuel supply convoys between 2003 and 2007 in Iraq and Afghanistan.” This issue will be explored further in a forthcoming documentary “the Burden,” produced by Truman National Security fellow Roger Sorkin. However, the author does allude to this problem under reason #2:
By cutting down on fuel deliveries, the hybrid solar units free up aircraft and trucks for other missions. According to Kidd, the project has resulted in the equivalent of pulling 185 trucks out of fuel convoys.
In turn, that reduces the risk for Soldiers assigned to secure air drops and fuel convoys.
UPDATE: a colleague of ours adds another good reason why U.S. Special Forces appreciate solar power: It’s quiet, and has much less of a thermal signature, which is important to low profile operations.
Following a debate last week regarding the EU’s Common Security and Defense Policy (CSDP), and its role in addressing “climate-driven natural disasters,” the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee has called for the creation of an EU special representative on climate security, which was echoed publicly by the influential British member of the European Parliament (MEP), Graham Watson.
The debate also resulted in a resolution on climate change and security by the European Parliament. According to the Parliament’s new service:
Climate change is the biggest threat to the global security, says a resolution drafted by Indrek Tarand (Greens/EFA, EE) and passed with 474 votes in favour, 80 against and 18 abstentions. Climate change exacerbates natural disasters that are destabilising, especially for vulnerable states, so its potential impact on security should be factored into EU external policies, it warns.
We will continue to watch this space for further developments, as the European Parliament’s suggestions make their way to the other organs of EU governance (namely, the Council of the European Union) that would need to approve them in order to be realized.
Ohio’s Toledo Blade published an editorial this past Monday on “Climate and security” which highlights the National Research Council’s recently released report “Climate and Social Stress: Implications for Security Analysis,” which was commissioned by the CIA. The editorial stresses the need for policy-makers to act on climate change, emphasizing the implications of inaction for the U.S. military, and stability in vulnerable regions of the world. From the editorial:
The report warns military leaders to expect turmoil if abnormal climate patterns allow extremist groups to gain a stronger foothold in the parched Middle East, starved regions of Africa, and other historically unstable parts of the world.
Some military leaders, including a former head of Central Command, warn that the United States will “pay the price later in military terms” if it postpones action now.
The former head of Central Command that the editorial refers to is four-star General Anthony Zinni, USMC (Ret.), who made the comments in an influential report prepared by CNA’s Military Advisory Board titled “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.”
In short, the U.S. military is taking climate change very seriously, and civilian policy-makers in the United States should follow suit.
As we highlighted previously, the United States is approaching an unenviable challenge: the possibility of 17 months worth of dramatically diminished weather satellite coverage (to be precise, the loss of two polar-orbiting satellites that are critical for accurate weather forecasting). This seems astonishing in the wake of such a devastating and unpredictable storm as Sandy, but the reasons for it lie in past mistakes that are not so easily, or quickly, corrected.
For this reason, as reported by Climate Central, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) is seeking public input on “how to maintain the accuracy of the agency’s weather forecasts despite the loss of satellite-derived data.”
Click here for additional details, and/or to submit a comment. The deadline is 5:00 p.m. (presumably Eastern) on December 19, 2012.
E&E reporter Annie Snider wrote this week on recent changes in the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency’s climate change analysis infrastructure (the story was also picked up by the New York Times). The headline of the story emphasizes the closure of the CIA’s Center on Climate Change and National Security, but sources for the story seemed to suggest that this most likely represents a reorientation in where the CIA houses its climate analysis, and in what context, rather than a scaling back. As reported by Snider: (more…)