Climate Policy and National Security

Published July 6, 2015

Panelists at the Tenth International Conference on Climate Change in June discussed President Barack Obama’s May 20 address before the U.S. Coast Guard Academy’s graduating class, in which he identified climate change as the greatest threat facing the world today.

            Heartland Institute Science Director Jay Lehr and James Taylor, the vice president for external affairs for The Heartland Institute, which publishes Environment & Climate News, argue Obama’s imposition of climate change policies on the U.S. armed forces weakens the United States’ national security. 

Worried about Wrong Threats

“Nowhere in [Obama’s] speech did he mention the problems in the Middle East, including ISIS,” Lehr said.

            This reflects the overwhelming role climate change policy has come to play in public discourse, says Lehr, who then called the public’s fixation on global warming “a plague on the economy and health of the world.”

            Lehr says contemporary climate science suffers from manipulation carried out to produce the desired political result.

            “The facts do not support the theory, but the theory has been adopted by the Obama administration,” Lehr said, adding that this has far-reaching implications for national security.

            Lehr says in May the U.S. Navy used naval exercises off the coast of China to showcase its biofuels program. U.S. Navy planes used a biofuel and jet fuel blend that cost $424 per gallon. The price for conventional jet fuel is between $57 and $67 per gallon.

            Lehr says the price to be paid for the U.S. Navy’s “green fuel comes in the form of funds being diverted from military readiness to the Obama administration’s climate change priorities.” 

Carbon Dioxide Not an ‘Invader’

Sardonically commenting on the connection between global warming and military readiness, Taylor said, “Carbon dioxide is not invading the country. We don’t need weapons to shoot down CO2.”

            Taylor illustrates the connection between global power and a strong economy by citing the example of 19th century Great Britain. It was a small country with an enormous global reach, thanks to its strong economy and navy, says Taylor. In the 20th century, the United States became the dominant power even though the country is smaller than Russia and less populous than China and India, says Taylor. The difference was the dynamic U.S. economy. Today, China is becoming a global power as its economy grows, Taylor says.

            The lesson to be learned from history is a vibrant economy is essential for establishing and maintaining military power, says Taylor. If the economy weakens, military readiness suffers.

            Taylor cites a recent study by the left-of-center Brookings Institution showing replacing conventional sources of energy with wind power will add 50 percent to the cost of electricity. Replacing conventional sources with solar power, Brookings found, would triple the cost of electricity.

            “More wind and solar power will not enable the United States to maintain its position [as the preeminent world power,]” Taylor said. 

Bonner R. Cohen, Ph.D. ([email protected]), is a senior fellow at the National Center for Public Policy Research.