Climate change “constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security,” President Barack Obama said Wednesday in a commencement address to graduates at the U.S. Coast Guard academy in Connecticut.
“You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us,” Obama said. “It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term.”
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While the U.S. military will have to prepare for and adapt to the impacts of climate change, “such preparation and adaptation alone will not be enough,” he said. “The only way the world is going to prevent the worst effects of climate change is to slow down the warming of the planet.”
Obama added: “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,” he added. “Denying it or refusing to deal with it endangers our national security. It undermines the readiness of our forces.”
Obama noted that the streets in coastal cities like Charleston, SC and Miami already flood at high tide. “Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways and roads, railways, energy facilities are all vulnerable. It’s estimated that a further increase in sea level of just one foot by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion.” Storms and high tides are a growing flood risk at the naval base at Norfolk, VA, while thawing permafrost damages military facilities in Alaska.
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