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Mattis: Climate Change Is Real, and a National Security Threat

Defense Secretary James Mattis believes climate change is real, and a national security threat. (Photo: USGLC/Flickr Creative Commons)

In previously unpublished written testimony to senators following his January confirmation hearing, Defense Secretary James Mattis argued that climate change is real, and a threat to US national security.

ProPublica reports Mattis wrote that “climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today” and that “it is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

“I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation,” the former general wrote. “I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”

During his Senate Armed Services Committee confirmation hearing, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-NH) asked Mattis a pair of climate change questions:

Shaheen: “I understand that while you were commander of US Joint Forces Command you signed off on a document called the Joint Operating Environment, which listed climate change as one of the security threats the military will face in the next quarter-century. Do you believe climate change is a security threat?”<

Mattis: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”

Shaheen: “General Mattis, how should the military prepare to address this threat?”

Mattis: “As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”

Mattis has long advocated a reduction in the military’s use of fossil fuels — the Defense Department is widely believed to be the planet’s biggest carbon polluter — and, as former commander of the US Joint Forces Command, signed off on the 2010 Joint Operating Environment identifying climate change as a top national security threat in the coming years. However, Mattis’ acknowledgement of climate change places him squarely at odds with many leading Trump administration figures, including President Donald Trump, who has said that climate change is a “hoax” invented by China. Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt, who has been accused of being a climate change denier, made international headlines last week when he defied the overwhelming international scientific consensus and the laws of physics by claiming carbon dioxide is not “a primary contributor to the global warming that we see.”

Other leading Trump administration officials, including Energy Secretary Rick Perry, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and chief White House strategist Steve Bannon, are either climate change deniers or skeptics, despite 97 percent of the world’s climatologists and nearly every national science academy on Earth concurring that human activity is fueling potentially catastrophic climate change.

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