Friday, May 29, 2009

How the Military Can Shape Public Opinion on Climate Change

Yesterday, the Wilson Center’s Environmental Change and Security Program hosted a presentation based on a report done by the CNA Corporation entitled “Energy, Climate Change, and the Military: Implications for National Security.” This report – a follow up to their 2007 report on “Climate Change and National Security”—presented the impact of America’s Energy and Climate policy on US national security and offered new proposals for a role the military can play.

The military can shape the terms of the debate on climate change. Vice Admiral (ret) Dennis McGinn recommended the Department of Defence (DoD) should take the lead on renewable energy and efficiency; as this can change the culture of the government and the country. He even compared carbon reductions to past campaigns to reducing smoking. The report shows that the military can be an agent of change, citing Truman’s decision to integrate the armed forces.

The report emphasizes that energy affects national security, and that the military’s use of energy can act as a model for American society at large. General Wald discussed weapon system acquisitions that are made with long time horizons; DOD must consider the carbon “bootprint” of weapon systems. This carbon bootprint could constrain operational readiness in coming decades when oil is scarcer. However, several questions cited the problems of entrenched interests in the Pentagon, including lobbyists, appropriations committees, and large-scale weapons systems that can have opposing agendas.

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