The Science Subcommittee on Investigations & Oversight chaired by Rep. Brad Miller (NC-13) is currently holding a hearing, “The National Security Implications of Climate Change.”
Subcommittee Chairman Brad Miller gives opening remarks:
“The seeds of the Second World War and the Holocaust were sown in the world-wide depression of the 1930s. European democracies fell and were replaced with authoritarian regimes with repugnant ideologies. Last year the British government issued a report that concluded that environmental devastation from global warming could result in a 5 to 20 percent decrease in the world's economic production, which would be comparable to the Great Depression or the World Wars.”
Read Subcommittee Chairman Miller’s opening remarks:
Rep. Brad Miller (D-NC)
Chairman, Subcommittee on Oversight and Investigations
Committee on Science and Technology
Hearing: The National Security Implications of Climate Change
The Department of Energy's Support for the Savannah River Ecology Laboratory (SREL)
September 27, 2007
The seeds of the Second World War and the Holocaust were sown in the world-wide depression of the 1930s. European democracies fell and were replaced with authoritarian regimes with repugnant ideologies.
Last year the British government issued a report that concluded that environmental devastation from global warming could result in a 5 to 20 percent decrease in the world's economic production, which would be comparable to the Great Depression or the World Wars.
The report concluded that global warming could result in hunger from diminished agricultural production and fisheries, water shortages, epidemics, and costal flooding that could displace as many as 200 million people.
Other experts argued that the report's conclusions were overstated and alarmist. But what if the report was right?
Are we ready for the world we would face if the report's conclusions prove correct? Will environmental and economic devastation result in failed states, authoritarian regimes, the spread of extremism and terror, and warfare over scarce resources?
Our national security professionals don't like surprises. They make it their business to anticipate events, however unlikely, and to plan for different contingencies. In the forties and the fifties, we were frequently surprised when governments we thought were stable fell to coups or revolutions. Our intelligence community developed models to predict which societies were unstable, or might become unstable.
And contingency planning is second nature to our military. Few adversaries are polite enough to notify us of their military plans.
Have we considered which societies may come unraveled as a result of environmental and economic devastation, whether or not we are certain that those results will materialize? The possibility of a world transformed by climate change is not a science fiction image of a post-apocalyptic society, it is not a road warrior movie, it is happening now.
There is another holocaust now in Darfur. The barbaric Bashir regime certainly is responsible for the genocide in Darfur, but U.N. Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon recently called the Darfur conflict an “ecological crisis” that had arisen “at least in part from climate change.”
Arab tribes and African tribes had lived together more or less in harmony for centuries, perhaps millennia. But precipitation in what was already an arid region has declined by 40 percent in the last two decades as the Sahara moves south. There is no longer enough water for Arab herders and for African farmers. The fighting in the Sudan has resulted in 400 to 450 thousand deaths, 2.5 million are living in refugee camps, and 4 million people in Darfur–roughly half the region's population–now depend on food assistance.
How many struggling governments in developing nations will collapse from the economic consequences of global warming? Will those ungoverned regions become, to use General Anthony Zinni's phrase, petri dishes for extremism and terrorism?
The consequences of global warming affect the work of many committees of this congress, and have been the subject of other hearings by the science and technology committee. The national security implications of global warming certainly may guide the work of this committee. What research should we be doing that we're not doing? What research should we move up in priority?
Can we better prepared to protect our national security interests by conducting research that will predict what consequences can come from global warming, and where? Can we be better prepared by conducting research into how to mitigate the consequences of global warming?
To give just one example, this committee fought for years the decision to eliminate sensors designed to collect climate-related data from the national polar orbiting operational environmental satellite system. The department of defense decided to eliminate the sensors to save money in a program with embarrassingly cost overruns.
Is the elimination of the sensors shortsighted on the basis of our national security needs?
Each of our witnesses today will have five minutes to answer those questions. But won't be the last time we discuss the topic.