In testimony before the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn articulated a national security argument for passing clean energy legislation. “Continued over reliance on fossil fuels, or small, incremental steps, simply will not create the kind of future security and prosperity that the American people and our great Nation deserve,” McGinn warned.
In an interview with the New York Times Magazine, Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK), the ranking member of the Senate environment committee, argued that McGinn and other generals who are advocating for clean energy reform (like Wesley Clark, Stephen Cheney, Brent Scowcroft, etc) are simply doing so because they crave “the limelight”:
NYT: Senator Boxer is chairwoman of the Environment and Public Works Committee,on which you are the ranking Republican. She and her fellow Democrats have lately suggested that global warming could be a threat to national security by destabilizing developing countries.
INHOFE: That’s the most ludicrous thing. They looked around and they found, I think, five generals to testify before the committee. Well, that’s 5 generals out of 4,000 retired generals that say that. There are a lot of generals who don’t like to be out of the limelight. They’d like to get back in.
Despite Inhofe’s desire to trash the motivations of military generals who have a different view than he does about the impending climate crisis, the national security implications of climate change cannot be so easily dismissed. For at least the past two years, “military and intelligence experts have been issuing studies warning that climate change could put American military personnel and national security at risk. Increasingly violent storms, pandemics, drought and large-scale refugee problems, they say, will destabilize regions and encourage terrorism. And American dependence on foreign energy sources will only exacerbate the threats and increase the likelihood of military action.”
It’s not just military generals who are making this argument. Inhofe’s former colleague, John Warner (who Inhofe acknowledged has had “a long and distinguished career in the military”), also understands the security implications of global warming:
WARNER: Leading military, intelligence, and security experts have publically spoken out that if left unchecked, global warming could increase instability and lead to conflict in already fragile regions of the world. If we ignore these facts, we do so at the peril of our national security and increase the risk to those in uniform who serve our nation. It is for this reason that I firmly believe the U.S. must take a leadership role in reducing greenhouse gas emissions.