President Obama used his commencement address at the Coast Guard Academy today to warn graduates of the threat they face from climate change.
The fight against global warming, he told the grads, is “one where our Coast Guardsmen are already on the front lines, and that, perhaps more than any other, will shape your entire careers.”
“As a nation, we face many challenges, including the grave threat of terrorism. And as Americans, we will always do everything in our power to protect our country. Yet even as we meet threats like terrorism, we cannot, and we must not, ignore a peril that can affect generations,” Obama said.
“Now, I know there are still some folks back in Washington who refuse to admit that climate change is real. And on a day like today, it’s hard to get too worried about it. There are folks who will equivocate. They’ll say, ‘You know, I’m not a scientist.’ Well, I’m not either. But the best scientists in the world know that climate change is happening. Our analysts in the intelligence community know climate change is happening. Our military leaders — generals and admirals, active duty and retired — know it’s happening. Our homeland security professionals know it is happening. And our Coast Guard knows it’s happening.”
Calling the science “indisputable,” the president proceeded to lament that “the fossil fuels we burn release carbon dioxide, which traps heat. And the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been in 800,000 years. The planet is getting warmer. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years. Last year was the planet’s warmest year ever recorded.”
“Our scientists at NASA just reported that some of the sea ice around Antarctica is breaking up even faster than expected. The world’s glaciers are melting, pouring new water into the ocean. Over the past century, the world sea level rose by about eight inches. That was in the last century; by the end of this century, it’s projected to rise another one to four feet,” he continued.
“Cadets, the threat of a changing climate cuts to the very core of your service. You’ve been drawn to water — like the poet who wrote, ‘the heart of the great ocean sends a thrilling pulse through me.’ You know the beauty of the sea, but you also know its unforgiving power… Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I’m here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now.”
That, he said, would be the “true hallmark of leadership.”
“When you’re on deck, standing your watch, you stay vigilant. You plan for every contingency. And if you see storm clouds gathering, or dangerous shoals ahead, you don’t sit back and do nothing. You take action — to protect your ship, to keep your crew safe. Anything less is negligence. It is a dereliction of duty. And so, too, with climate change. Denying it, or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces,” Obama said. “…If we are to meet this threat of climate change, we must be realists. We have to readjust the sails.”
He called climate change — “especially rising seas” — a “threat to our homeland security, our economic infrastructure, the safety and health of the American people.”
“So politicians who say they care about military readiness ought to care about this, as well. Just as we’re helping American communities prepare to deal with the impacts of climate change, we have to help our bases and ports, as well. Not just with stronger seawalls and natural barriers, but with smarter, more resilient infrastructure — because when the seas rise and storms come, we all have to be ready.” Obama also lauded renewable energy technology being used and developed by the military.
Sen. John Barrasso (R-Wyo.) said on the Senate floor this morning that Obama’s national security address needed to be about ISIS, not climate change.
“Americans understand that there are much more immediate threats facing our nation,” Barrasso said. “The fall of Ramadi in Iraq, the brutal terrorist attacks by ISIS, these are clear examples of the real threats that must be addressed by President Obama.”
“The president and his national security team must deliver strong leadership and an effective strategy—a strategy to fight the terrorists who want to attack our country and kill more Americans. This should be the focus of the president’s speech today. This should be our most pressing national security concern.”