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Killing Environmental Protections Causes National Security Concerns

As the U.S. military engages against Syria, analysis of the relationship between climate change and national security heats up. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
As the U.S. military engages against Syria, analysis of the relationship between climate change and national security heats up. (Creative Commons/Wikimedia)
April 10, 2017

SANTA FE, N.M. -- President Donald Trump is rolling back programs that help slow climate change, but national security experts say it could pose major problems for the U.S. military he's also trying to build up.

Defense Council member Brendan McKinnon with the Truman National Security Project said he never spent much time thinking about the environment - but being deployed to the Persian Gulf in 2008 changed his mind. He said the sole mission for him and fellow U.S. Coast Guard members was protecting the one functioning Iraqi offshore oil platform.

"The Defense Department has long recognized climate change not just as an environmental threat, but as a threat multiplier throughout the world,” McKinnon said; "because it magnifies the issues that our military is deployed to deal with."

Retired Marine Corps General Stephen Cheney, CEO of the American Security Project, said Trump is ignoring the fact that climate change makes the military's job harder and more dangerous. Cheney believes policies to fight a warming climate will make the nation safer in the long run.

"We feel strongly that the Clean Power Plan was a good idea, that we need to be transitioning over to renewable energies,” Cheney said. “We need to get off of fossil fuels - in particular, coal."

President Trump has argued that rolling back the Environmental Protection Agency's Clean Power Plan is part of a larger strategy to minimize government regulations that he said cost jobs and slow economic growth. But his environmental legacy is prompting some major push-back, including "March for Science" demonstrations scheduled for April 22, Earth Day.

McKinnon said 99 percent of scientists and a majority of Americans - including Trump voters - don't want to ditch the Clean Power Plan. He said there are opportunities for New Mexicans to stand up for their beliefs.

"The Science March [is] coming up later in the spring; I think anything like that, where you can make your voice heard by the administration, so that they're hearing from more than the 12 coal miners that are on the stage with the President that think it's a good idea,” he said.

March for Science events are scheduled in New Mexico for April 22 in Santa Fe and Albuquerque.

Brett McPherson, Public News Service - NM