Skip to Content

Sustainability News

ASU Now | November 8, 2019

highway bridge flooding after hurricane katrinaWhen we talk about climate change, we usually discuss its impact on the environment and our food supply. It is too often considered “just an environmental issue,” and so most people don’t realize it has other wide ranging effects — like the compromise of our national security.

In a lecture cosponsored by the Julie Ann Wrigley Global Institute of Sustainability, the American Security Project and senior business leaders concerned about long-term planning of our national security interests, retired Air Force leader Lt. Gen. Dirk Jameson shed light on the connection between these two seemingly unrelated concepts. Jameson, who previously served as deputy commander in chief and chief of U.S. Strategic Command and retired after more than three decades of active service, mentioned that the military sees two main threats in climate change: the fact that it is an “accelerant of instability” and the fact that it puts 500 installations (about 300,000 buildings) worldwide at risk.

The first threat refers to how climate change can incite a hostile political climate. He noted that the beginning of the Syrian civil war could be traced back to the most intense drought in the country’s history. The five-year drought severely impacted crop yields and resulted in an increase in food prices. This, combined with the mismanagement of water resources and other factors, eventually resulted in the violent uprising that began in 2011 and has spawned one of the biggest humanitarian crises in the world.

The second threat refers to how climate change causes more extreme weather events which in turn threaten military infrastructure around the world. Hurricane Michael, one of the strongest hurricanes ever to hit the continental U.S. caused $5 billion worth of damage at the Tyndall Air Force Base in the Florida panhandle. The second threat is particularly important. According to a Department of Defense report released earlier this year, “more than two-thirds of the military’s operationally critical installations are threatened by climate change.” In addition to the destruction of the Tyndall base, the 2018 Hurricane Florence devastated Camp Lejeune.

Jameson concluded the talk by encouraging audience members to reach out to their elected representatives to let them know how vital of an issue climate change is. He noted that the science on climate change is definitive and mentioned that there are no scientific objections.