100 lawmakers ask Trump to reconsider security strategy

Source: Nick Sobczyk, E&E News reporter • Posted: Tuesday, January 16, 2018

A bipartisan group of more than 100 House lawmakers yesterday asked President Trump to reconsider omitting climate change from the list of security threats in his first National Security Strategy.

The strategy — released last month — marked a major, if unsurprising, departure from the Obama administration on climate policy in the national security space (Greenwire, Dec. 18, 2017).

In a letter to Trump, the group of lawmakers — led by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) — called leaving climate out “a significant step backwards.”

“We have heard from scientists, military leaders, and civilian personnel who believe that climate change is indeed a direct threat to America’s national security and to the stability of the world at large,” they wrote.

“As global temperatures become more volatile, sea levels rise, and landscapes change, our military installations and our communities are increasingly at risk of devastation,” they said. “It is imperative that the United States addresses this growing geopolitical threat.”

Langevin told E&E News yesterday the lawmakers are planning to send a copy of the letter to Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, with hopes that climate will be included in the National Defense Strategy, the Pentagon’s more specific planning outline slated for release Jan. 19.

The move to exclude climate change from the NSS was panned almost unanimously by environmental groups and by some in the defense community, who said it ignored the will of top military officials, including Mattis.

The document primarily focuses on the economic and security importance of developing the U.S. energy sector, though it does briefly note that “climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system.”

In contrast, the effects on warming were a focal point of President Obama’s security policy. Climate change was mentioned 13 times in the previous administration’s last NSS, produced in 2015.

The strategy is also at odds with legislation passed through the Republican-controlled Congress. During debate on the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, Langevin tacked on an amendment in committee calling climate change “a direct threat to the national security of the U.S.”

On the House floor in July, nearly 50 Republicans joined Democrats in voting down an amendment from Rep. Scott Perry (R-Pa.) that would have stripped the provision from the bill (E&E Daily, July 14, 2017). Trump signed it into law, climate language intact, last month.

Stefanik pledged to rally colleagues on the issue.

“As a Member of the Climate Solutions Caucus and the author of the House Republican Climate Resolution, I will continue to work with my colleagues to ensure the threats posed by climate change are being addressed at the federal level,” she said in a statement.

But on the whole, the Republican caucus remains opposed to climate action, even in the context of favorite issues like national security.

Just a handful of Republicans — including Climate Solutions Caucus Co-chairman Carlos Curbelo of Florida — signed onto the letter. And a majority of GOP members voted to slash Langevin’s amendment from the defense authorization bill in July.

At the Department of Defense, however, the issue is nonpartisan. Mattis in his confirmation hearing acknowledged climate change, and under his leadership, DOD has quietly decided to stay the course on the issue and largely keep in place climate policies initiated during the Obama administration (Greenwire, Nov. 16, 2017).

Langevin said he hopes his amendment, which requires DOD to assess the bases and installations that are most vulnerable to the effects of climate change, can be a boon for that effort.

“Even if we can’t fight Mother Nature and we’re not going to be able to totally reverse the effects of climate change, there are things that we can do to mitigate those effects and lessen the impacts,” he said.