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Military Planners Push Back against House Climate Vote

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PHOTO: Jon Gensler, who was a U.S. Army tank captain in Iraq, says he became concerned about climate change after seeing how America's energy policy was tied to the deaths of two West Point classmates there. Photo courtesy of Gensler.
PHOTO: Jon Gensler, who was a U.S. Army tank captain in Iraq, says he became concerned about climate change after seeing how America's energy policy was tied to the deaths of two West Point classmates there. Photo courtesy of Gensler.
June 2, 2014

LITTLE ROCK, Ark. - Advisers to the armed forces are objecting to a vote by the U.S. House of Representatives to stop the military from planning for climate change.

The Department of Defense sees climate change as a serious threat to national security. Last month, however, the House added an amendment to the DOD's budget designed to stop military plans for dealing with it. That has sparked strong objections from the retired military and civilian advisory groups that often speak out on issues when those in uniform feel they can't.

"It's not appropriate for Congress to be telling the Department of Defense what is or is not a threat," said Andrew Holland, a senior fellow for energy and climate at the nonpartisan American Security Project. "This is clearly a political amendment, as opposed to something that's really about looking at our national security."

The amendment's sponsor says he doubts that climate change is real, and thinks planning for it is part of a politically motivated agenda. But Jon Gensler, a former Army tank captain working on energy issues since returning from Iraq, said he realized America's military situation is tied to its energy policy after seeing West Point classmates lose their lives.

"I buried two friends who were killed by advanced roadside bombs financed and deployed through oil money," Gensler said. "If we don't minimize our energy use, to minimize the threats that climate change is posing, we're going to continue to put our nation's sons and daughters at risk."

Gensler called the House amendment "nearsighted and misplaced." In his view, when planning for climate change, the armed forces are being hardheaded and practical about the threats - because they have to be.

"We have bases - like Hampton Roads, Va. - threatened by sea rise, where we have thousands and thousands and thousands of sailors and trillions of dollars of equipment at risk."

The House passed the amendment on a largely party-line vote, ahead of new carbon pollution rules expected this week from the Environmental Protection Agency. The text of the amendment is online at amendments-rules.house.gov.

Dan Heyman, Public News Service - AR