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Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Once Again Raises Alarm Bells on Global Warming

Jake Schmidt

Posted April 28, 2011

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If the highest-ranking officer in the U.S. Armed Forces tells you to worry about global warming would you?  I would sure pay attention.  So when Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, recently spoke on why the military is troubled by global warming we should listen.  In his recent speech at the Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies he stressed the two main reasons the military is concerned about global warming: (1) the true costs of securing oil; and (2) the instability that will from global warming. 

Watch the video (beginning at 15:14) and see below for key excerpts from this speech.

Energy Security and the costs of securing oil.  He stressed that:

" security presents an enduring challenge for our military and our nation…In my profession, this is not just about money.  The cost of fossil fuel manifests itself far more profoundly than just a heftier bill at the gas pump.  I’m acutely aware of the cost in both blood and treasure of providing energy to our forces in Afghanistan today.  Past headlines of fuel convoys being attacked attest to those vulnerabilities” [emphasis added].

Some steps that the military is taking to address its energy use.  Admiral Mullen went on to say:   

“I'm proud to share that the military is responding to this challenge with the sailing of the great green fleet in 2016, to deploying solar power in the field with the marines, to simply insulating roofs of the Army's overseas deployment structures which will save millions of dollars per month in air conditioning costs.” 

Instability from global warming.  He continued by outlining that:

"climate change’s potential impacts are sobering and far-reaching.  Glaciers are melting at a faster rate, causing water supplies to diminish in Asia. Rising sea levels could lead to a mass migration and displacement similar to what we saw in Pakistan’s floods last year.  And other shifts could reduce the arable land needed to feed a growing population in Africa, for example. Scarcity of water, food and space could create not only a humanitarian crisis, but create conditions that could lead to failed states, instability and, potentially, radicalization."  

So when you hear people (like in these recent Wall Street Journal or LA Times opinion pieces) question the reality of climate change or the potential instability that might arise, you might ask some key questions. Why does the military worry about global warming?  Why do people that build their whole operation around intelligence assessments and risks take this serious?  Why is a group that is so focused on addressing global conflicts concerned over global warming?  And why is this commentator, journalist, politician, business leader, or citizen not as concerned as the military about something so serious?


Hat tip to Nick Sundt at World Wildlife Fund – US for catching this and blogging it.

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Mike LeBowApr 28 2011 02:29 PM

Where do I start...

You are reading what you want to read into his comments. The first two quotes have *nothing* to do with global warming, but rather are focused on sustainability and energy independence, indeed important topics, but that have nothing to do with global warming.

In terms of the general's comments on the implications of climate change, realize that military planners have a responsibility and obligation to plan for the "edge cases", no matter how minute they actually think the chances of ever facing them are.

In any case, I think it's a shame that you missed an opportunity to make a believable point and to support the climate change argument by confusing sustainability/energy independence with global warning.

Jake SchmidtApr 28 2011 02:56 PM


Thanks for the comments. I'm not sure how I took his quotes out of context when I used the direct quotes from him. You can watch the video in its entirety on this post.

Admiral Mullen makes a direct connection between energy security and climate change in his speech, so you should listen to his own words as I couldn't include the entire speech in my blog.

Yes the military is meant to be cautious in their thinking and to be worried about "edge cases". But are you willing to bet the fate of future generations (and my kids) on the possibility that over 95% of the world's leading scientists are wrong? I buy car insurance not because I know I'll get in an accident, but because I might and the costs would likely become too great to bear without car insurance. And since our likelihood of the kinds of climate extremes that the scientists predict is pretty large I think we should buy the equivalent of "climate insurance" - take action. The military is worried enough about the implications of climate change to take it serious, shouldn't we be worried?

Neil LaChapelleApr 28 2011 03:09 PM

I work for a general insurance company. Forget about scientists and public servants. All you need to know is that *actuaries* not only think the threat is real, but they are trying to price it and you are going to be paying for it when you insure property or commercial enterprises. They are watching climate-related risks and losses, and are not inclined to be sentimental or ideological about them. Climate change deniers will nonetheless be charged insurance premiums that reflect climate change risks - or will see certain kinds of climate-related risks excluded from policies.

Comments are closed for this post.


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