Why does Obama Say Climate Change Biggest Security Threat?

Donald Trump along with virtually every sitting and candidate Republican congressperson, plus religious conservatives say there is no such thing as global warming.

See below for a brief explanation you can use to explain to children so they understand what, if not why.

But first, why does President Obama (not to mention the CIA, Homeland Security, and the Department of Defense) say the greatest threat to national security is climate change when we have terrorists killing people today?

The short version is that because it will cause drastic shortages of food and water, global warming/climate change will increase terrorism and bring national wars as people demand food and water.

In other words, while terrorism is an immediate threat, climate change will cause a drastic increase in terrorism and military action when countries and tribes fight their neighbors to avoid starvation. Can you doubt that anyone with a weapon will fight to keep his family from starvation?

In 2015 (July 23) the Pentagon produced a report on this threat, ordered by the Republican dominated Congress. So keep that in mind when you hear Republicans playing to the masses by loudly denying climate change. They obviously believed in it enough to order a report on its implications to national security.


“DoD recognizes the reality of climate change and the significant risk it poses to U.S. interests globally. The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water. These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”

“Global climate change will have wide-ranging implications for U.S. national security interests over the foreseeable future because it will aggravate existing problems – such as poverty, social tensions, environmental degradation, ineffectual leadership, and weak political institutions – that threaten domestic stability in a number of countries.”

Please remember that the above comments were produced AT THE REQUEST of the Republican Congress, NOT the Obama Administration.

Some Details

Four general areas of climate-related security risks:

  • Persistently recurring conditions such as flooding, drought, and higher temperatures increase the strain on fragile states and vulnerable populations by dampening economic activity and burdening public health through loss of agriculture and electricity production, the change in known infectious disease patterns and the rise of new ones, and increases in respiratory and cardiovascular diseases.
  • More frequent and/or more severe extreme weather events that may require substantial involvement of DoD units, personnel, and assets in humanitarian assistance and disaster relief (HA/DR) abroad and in Defense Support of Civil Authorities (DSCA) at home. (Author Note – do you remember that Superstorm Sandy caused NYC subways to flood and Battery Park was under water.
  • Sea level rise and temperature changes lead to greater chance of flooding in coastal communities and increase adverse impacts to navigation safety, damages to port facilities and cooperative security locations, and displaced populations.
  • Decreases in Arctic ice cover, type, and thickness will lead to greater access for tourism, shipping, resource exploration and extraction, and military activities. Land access – which depends on frozen ground in the Arctic [such as Siberia] – will diminish as permafrost thaws.

See the full scale chart below this story.

From 1972 through 2008 (it takes years to properly correlate and accurately report such data) sea level rise was due 52% to melting ice water running into the seas and 38% due to water expansion due to warmer water temperatures. (Water’s maximum density occurs at about 4-degrees Centigrade and it expands as you heat it further.)

Ocean levels have raised 8 inches from 1880 until today but the rate of rise is increasing and by 2050 it will be between 6 and 24 inches higher than today or between 14 and 32 inches higher than in 1880.

You can find your east coast U.S. state’s changing shoreline at http://sealevel.climatecentral.org/

The Risk Zone Map for Florida is here.

Weather vs Climate

One proof offered by a major TV evangelist was when he brought a snowball into the studio, saying it was proof of no global warming while actually proving he didn’t understand the difference between climate and weather.

Weather is what happens in one place today and this week and what The Weatherman gets right about half the time.

Climate is what happens from decade to decade over very large regions.

Global warming is just that, an increase in the average temperature taken over the entire world.

No actual scientist denies that the earth is getting warmer although about 2 percent disagree that it is in large part due to human action and about half can’t agree just when the tipping point will be where we can’t reverse it.

Any gardener will tell you their growing season is getting longer. Here in Central PA it is almost 30-days longer than when I planted gardens 20 years ago and the USDA growth region maps are nearly two regions higher than shown on the old charts.

Here is the result of the most recent measurements of global temperature changes.

sea level rise and global warming infographic
Sea level rise and global warming infographic. Infographic courtesy Union of Concerned Scientists 2014.