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GOP and Dem Letter to Trump: Return Climate Change to National Security Strategy

Soldiers drive on flooded roads as they continue rescue missions in Port Arthur, Texas, on Sept. 4, 2017. (Army photo by Staff Sgt. Melisa Washington)

WASHINGTON — More than 100 lawmakers, led by a New York Republican and Rhode Island Democrat, have called on the Trump administration to reverse its decision to pull climate change as a threat from the National Security Strategy.

The Obama administration’s February 2015 National Security Strategy stated, “Climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources like food and water. The present day effects of climate change are being felt from the Arctic to the Midwest. Increased sea levels and storm surges threaten coastal regions, infrastructure, and property. In turn, the global economy suffers, compounding the growing costs of preparing and restoring infrastructure.”

In its 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, the Defense Department warned that “a changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions.”

“The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained,” the report stated, adding that “climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.”

Defense Secretary James Mattis said in a written response to senators during his confirmation process 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 new NSS says, “Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system. U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests.”

The letter to President Trump signed by 104 House members last week expresses “concern” about the NSS as “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.”

“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 added. “It is imperative that the United States addresses this growing geopolitical threat.”

The letter, led by Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), tells Trump that “failing to recognize this threat in your National Security Strategy represents a significant step backwards on this issue and discredits those who deal in scientific fact.”

“We urge you to reconsider this omission,” the lawmakers added.

Stefanik said separately in a statement that “climate change poses serious concerns for our national security and for political instability around the globe.”

“This is a concern I share with many of our nation’s top national defense experts, including Secretary Mattis,” she added. “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.”

Langevin called it “imperative” that Trump reverse course. “As our military leaders around the globe see the effects a changing climate is already having on our mission resiliency, it is critical that we address this challenge head on,” he said.

Republican signatories on the letter include Reps. Ryan Costello (R-Pa.), Charlie Dent (R-Pa.), John Faso (R-N.Y.), Brian Fitzpatrick (R-Pa.), Frank LoBiondo (R-N.J.), Dave Reichert (R-Wash.), Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), and Mimi Walters (R-Calif.).