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National-Security Expert Slams Trump Policy on Climate Change

National security experts say unrest in Syria was worsened by drought linked to climate change.(zabelin/iStockphoto)
National security experts say unrest in Syria was worsened by drought linked to climate change.(zabelin/iStockphoto)
April 6, 2017

PHOENIX -- Experts on national security are condemning efforts by the Trump administration to reverse Obama-era climate change policy.

Citing a desire to protect jobs in the coal industry, President Trump recently signed executive orders that start the process of repealing the Clean Power Plan, which set emissions limits on coal-fired power plants.

Retired Marine Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, who now serves as CEO of the American Security Project, said this retrenchment in the battle against climate change is counterproductive, noting that bases such as Norfolk Naval Station in Virginia and Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean already are losing ground to the sea.

"Military services have to plan for this and survive,” Cheney said. "So, yes, the military's on the forefront of it because it's a daily, ongoing, they-can-see-it occurrence, while others perhaps have the attitude of 'Not in my backyard, so I don't have to worry about it.' "

Cheney said climate change threatens national security because it acts as a risk multiplier when extreme weather causes flooding, massive fires and drought. Those in turn cause scarcity of food and fresh water. For example, he said, drought caused massive migrations in Syria and Nigeria in recent years, which set the stage for unrest.

Trump also lifted a rule that required national security decision makers to plan for climate change. Cheney said he's optimistic that Secretary of Defense James Mattis will still take the matter seriously.

"Jim Mattis, retired Marine general in the Department of Defense, has recognized that climate change is man-made, that it's a problem and it's a threat to our stabilities,” Cheney said. "We feel fairly confident that at least he'll include it in his national security plans, but I'm not sure about Department of State and Department of Homeland Security."

Trump has said he would like to "cancel" the Paris Accords on Climate Change but has not pulled out of the treaty thus far. Cheney argues that doing so would effectively hand over the U.S. leadership role to countries such as Russia and China, which have pledged to uphold the treaty.

Suzanne Potter, Public News Service - AZ