Patrick Semansky/AP/File
A sign stands outside of an entrance to the US Naval Academy campus in Annapolis, Md., in 2014. As sea levels rise and extreme weather strikes more often due to climate change, flooding could render the historic campus unusable by the end of the century, according to a think tank's report released Wednesday.

Is climate change a military problem?

Since the reports drew such bipartisan support from so many former officials, they could increase pressure on the White House to dedicate more resources to climate change initiatives.

From time to time, tidal flooding soaks portions of the US Naval Academy grounds in Annapolis, Md., where service members have studied since its founding in 1845. As sea levels rise and extreme weather strikes more often due to climate change, however, flooding could affect the site so frequently that it becomes unusable by the end of the century.

That warning is among many outlined in a report unveiled Wednesday by The Center for Climate & Security, with endorsements from retired US military officers and former national security officials. The bipartisan group of supporters called upon the current and coming administrations to anticipate the global conflicts that climate change could cause, and to protect the more than 1,700 coastal sites maintained by the American military across the globe.

“There isn’t a region in the world where rising seas don’t affect our military readiness and operations, and complicate our ability to do our job,” retired US Coast Guard Vice Adm. Rob Parker said in a statement released with the report.

Even certain current conflicts can be attributed, in part, to climate, as US Secretary of State John Kerry noted during a speech last fall at Old Dominion University.

“It’s not a coincidence that immediately prior to the civil war in Syria, the country experienced its worst drought on record,” Mr. Kerry said. “As many as 1.5 million people migrated from Syria’s farms to its cities, intensifying the political unrest that was just beginning to roil and boil in the region.”

Alongside the report on rising seas, the Washington-based think tank released a national security “briefing book” for the next president and a consensus statement on climate change signed by 25 former officials.

“These reports make it crystal clear. To national security and defense leaders, there’s absolutely nothing political about climate change,” the think tank’s co-presidents, Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, said in a written statement. “It’s a security risk, it makes other security risks worse, and we need to do something big about it.”

Since the reports drew such bipartisan support from so many former officials, they could increase future pressure on the White House to dedicate more resources to climate change, which has not been a top priority on the 2016 campaign trail.

Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton has advocated for clean energy and fracking regulation, while her Republican opponent Donald Trump has said global warming is a concept “created by the and for the Chinese” to hurt American business.

Recommendations in the reports include the creation of a cabinet-level official to focus on domestic climate change and related security issues.

The reports and their endorsements failed to impress James Lewis, a senior vice president and program director with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, who suggested the military has more pressing threats to address.

“We tend to militarize everything,” Dr. Lewis tells The Christian Science Monitor. While climate change is an indisputable fact and fixing it would be worthwhile, it’s not a Department of Defense mission, he adds.

“People have gotten used to tagging the word ‘security’ to any issue we have,” Mr. Lewis adds. “Trying to cram everything into the security framework means we end up being less effective in addressing things.”

But the officials who spoke in support of the reports contend they have no choice but to engage.

“Because we define our interests globally, we have to take these things into account,” retired US Army Gen. Charles Jacoby Jr. said during an interview with The Weather Channel. “Many conflicts throughout our history have been based on resource competition. Increasingly in the future we’ll be defining some of our national security interests in those resource contests.”

This report includes material from Reuters.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to

QR Code to Is climate change a military problem?
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today