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Major U.S. Businesses and Military Leaders call for climate investments for national security and economic reasons

Jake Schmidt

Posted December 8, 2010 in Solving Global Warming

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Major U.S. businesses and military leaders sent public letters to President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hilary Clinton calling for leadership on global climate finance.  They are calling for the US to make the needed critical investments in assisting developing countries in deploying clean energy, reducing deforestation emissions, and addressing the impacts of climate change.  They pointed out that these efforts will protect US economic interests from the increasing threats of climate, change, build new opportunities to create jobs and protect US national security.

Getting real resources on the table for these critical investments was a key element of the agreement in Copenhagen at last year’s climate talks and is a critical element of the balanced package negotiators are trying to build here in Cancun.  Countries are looking to find agreement on how to create the right institutions, safeguards, and process to ensure that scaled-up resources can be mobilized to help shift developing country economies toward clean energy, reduce emissions from deforestation and prepare countries to withstand the already catastrophic impacts of climate change.

Twelve major companies – ranging from Pepsi, Nike and Starbucks – and 16 retired United States Generals and Admirals know that action and support is needed to avert the impacts of climate change.  And they know that smart investments in developing countries directly benefits the US in at least three ways.  

Economic growth and stability throughout the world (and in the US).   The impacts of climate change are global, at the same time supply chains and markets are also global.  They rely on the stability of partners in the developing world to produce and distribute their products.  Climate change impacts put at risk economic stability including that of U.S. companies.  As they stated in their letter:

Furthermore, effective climate finance abroad will contribute significantly to equitable economic growth at home.  It will create employment opportunities, generate demand globally for U.S. technologies and services, and facilitate innovation in multiple sectors.

National security.  The Quadrennial Defense Review cited climate change as a potential source of instability with floods, droughts, temperature rise, and crop loss weakening already fragile states.  Numerous other reports have echoed this security concern regarding the impacts of climate change and the CIA has an on-going program to analyze the threat of climate change.  In the letter to Secretary Clinton the Generals and Admirals (individuals with great credibility on security issues) called upon the Administration to act to prevent further increasing risks from climate change now because they will worsen if we delay action.   As they stated in their letter:

From the devastating floods in Pakistan, to droughts and other disasters in Afghanistan, Somalia, Darfur, and Yemen, predictions of climate-related disasters will continue to play out.  Fragile states further weakened by the effects of climate change will create safe havens for those who seek to harm us and will inevitably result in stretching our military and humanitarian resources unless we proactively build climate resilience in vulnerable nations. 

Providing financing for international climate preparedness and adaptation programs is a vital component of reducing global security threats.  …  Taking this action will also save our country significant resources and assets. 

Humanitarian assistance (because failed or struggling states are a problem).  According to the US Agency for International Development, the United States gives more to those in crisis than any other country in the world.  And the speed and effectiveness with which we implement climate investments in the developing world will determine whether the cost to address crises goes up dramatically as a result of climate change.  We can also protect our investments in food, health, education and children’s welfare around the world by ‘climate-proofing’ the billions of dollars worth of investments we have already made.   These are investments that we’ve made because failed or struggling states are a problem.  So let’s not make matters worse.

The International Food Policy Research Institute released a new report here at the climate talks which shows  that crops and food are at tremendous risk as a result of climate change and population growth:

Between 2010 and 2050, the price of corn, also called maize, could rise by 42-131 percent, that of rice by 11-78 percent, and that of wheat by 17-67 percent. And that Climate change will cause lower rice yields all over the world in 2050.

Major Companies, Generals, Admirals, and Members of Congress Understand that these Investments are in the US interest.  Members of Congress have understood this direct benefit as they supported US investments in clean energy deployment, deforestation reductions, and adaptation in the developing world.  In fact, key Members of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee just stressed:

To protect our own national security, the United States is supporting projects globally that reduce deforestation emissions and help to avert the impacts of climate change. The United States is also supporting important efforts to increase resilience of countries most vulnerable to the politically destabilizing effects of climate change.

So major companies, military leaders, and members of Congress understand that funding for these efforts directly benefits American citizens.   Sounds like a good deal to me…and one understood by people who know the implications of not making these investments.

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This post was co-written by Heather Allen

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Switchboard is the staff blog of the Natural Resources Defense Council, the nation’s most effective environmental group. For more about our work, including in-depth policy documents, action alerts and ways you can contribute, visit NRDC.org.

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