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Climate Change As An Issue Of National Security

October 12, 2009

CHARLESTON, W.Va. - Because of the importance of the coal industry in West Virginia, climate change is usually a domestic, economic issue in that state. However, according to a dozen three- and four-star retired military officers, climate change is a serious U.S. national security threat. Retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn says people in failed states such as Afghanistan and Somalia often turn to extremism. And he says natural disasters like floods, droughts or hurricanes, which some people have linked to climate change, can push weak nations over the edge.

"Imagine, around the world, fault lines along religious, ethnic, economic and political lines. Put a big magnifying glass on top of those fault lines, increase them in frequency and intensity, and that's what the climate change dynamic will do."

McGinn says the military is moving strongly towards energy conservation and alternative fuels. He says the Department of Defense wants to save money and protect the country from the possible security threats ensuing from its dependence on imported oil, and that one possible solution is domestic, renewable energy.

"The Navy is investigating use of algae-based oils for ship and airborne use. In fact they're planning on flying an F-18 Super Hornet next year, using algae-based oil."

The Air Force considered using airplane fuel made from coal, but McGinn says it didn't work because of cost and technical issues.

"The notion of coal to liquid, when you first take a look at it seems appealing, but when you look at some of the technical difficulties in actually doing it, it's pretty much a non-starter."

Some coal executives, including Massey Energy CEO Don Blankenship, have disputed whether industrial activity is having an impact on the climate. McGinn says it's already causing important water problems in parts of Central and South Asia.

The U.S. Senate is now debating a bill on climate change.

A report written by the CNA Military Advisory Board, which includes Admiral McGinn, is available online at
www.cna.org

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - WV