Pentagon's Climate Change Command

President Obama is hurrying to create military climate change command, apparently planning to spend a big chunk of increasingly scarce Defense Department funds on monitoring global warming. Even though climate change science is questionable, Obama and the Democratic Congress are setting the stage to focus the Pentagon on doomsday environmentalism.

Last week, Deputy Defense Secretary William Lynn linked climate change to security in a speech at Britain’s House of Commons.  Lynn, a former aid to the late Sen. Ted Kennedy, emphasized the U.S. is “…working alongside the U.K. to protect our climate and environment, and to understand their role in global security.”  He said the Pentagon is “…focusing high-level attention on how natural resources contribute to conflict” which includes “resource scarcity … population growth and climate change.”

Lynn’s “high-level attention” includes tasking Pentagon satellites to seek insights from  natural phenomena like glaciers, deserts and forests.  But with the intelligence world under fire after the attempted Christmas airliner bombing every minute our satellites are watching glaciers is one less they can watch terrorists who seek to kill Americans.

Such dangerous diversion of Pentagon resources set off alarm bells for retired Adm. James Lyons, the former commander of the U.S. Pacific Fleet.  Lyons wrote Obama encouraging the president to form a review panel to study the purported links between climate change and national security “…before we adopt policies that affect military preparedness and national security.”

Adm. Lyons cautioned Obama “…it is imperative that we act on honest assessments of the best available information.”  He expressed a commonly held view that “…when it comes to the climate change-national security link … any confidence in scientific pronouncements that may have existed in 2009 does not exist in 2010.”

The reduced confidence in climate change science is attributed to the “climategate” scandal and the United Nations’ groundless claim about vanishing Himalayan glaciers.  No wonder a recent Washington Post-ABC News poll found four in 10 Americans place little or no trust in what scientists have to say about the environment, which is up significantly in recent years.

The “climategate” scandal started in November 2009 after thousands of leaked e-mails from the climate research unit of the University of East Anglia in England indicated misconduct by leading climate scientists such as withholding scientific information. 

Then last week the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) retracted a 2007 report which claimed there is a strong chance of the Himalayan glaciers “…disappearing by the year 2035 and perhaps sooner.”  The IPCC admitted under pressure from the Indian government that the report was “poorly substantiated.”  

These scandals failed to impact Obama’s hardened climate change views, however.  Last week, the president declared in his State of the Union address there is “…overwhelming scientific evidence on climate change.”  That view may explain why he pursued a radical climate change agenda during his first year.

Now, Obama has his climate change sights set on the Pentagon.  Apparently he will ignore Adm. Lyon’s concerns that climate change “…is too important an issue to be driven by unsubstantiated claims, tainted by scandal and to result in counterproductive policies.” 

Consider what the Obama Pentagon is doing.

Let’s concede there are legitimate activities that fall under the climate change umbrella such as increasing energy efficiency.  The U.S. military is the largest consumer of energy: 300,000 barrels of oil a day.  Secretary Lynn rightly praised the Pentagon for reducing energy consumption at fixed installations over the past three years by over 10 percent, and nearly 5 percent of electricity at U.S. bases now comes from renewable sources.

There’s also the shrinking Arctic ice cap which environmentalists blame on manmade climate change.  The cause of the shrinking cap is disputed, but the newly-opened shipping channel through the Arctic and undersea resources are already the focus of international competition.  America’s national interests in the region must be protected.

But the climate change debate is far more complex.  Various Pentagon studies predict over the next few decades vulnerable regions like sub-Saharan Africa will face catastrophic problems driven by climate change.  That view, like Adm. Lyon said, must be demonstrated scientifically. But Obama appears ready to harness the military to the climate change bandwagon.

There is no better venue for a security problem than to be included in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR).  Secretary of Defense Robert Gates will soon release the 2010 QDR which will for the first time examine how the U.S. military can respond to natural disasters allegedly caused by climate change. The QDR is a Congressionally-mandated review of strategy, programs and resources and is used to shape strategy and force structure.

The inclusion of climate change issues in the QDR puts it on the military’s menu for resourcing.  The military services will likely be designated executive agents for climate change missions, plans will be written and ultimately resources will be allocated.

Just what might those missions entail?  There will be missions to control the migration of populations fleeing drought stricken areas which will require shelter, food, medical care, and peacekeepers.  Rising water levels as predicted by many climate change scientists could require massive engineer work such as building levees or the evacuation of entire cities to higher ground.  The list of possible “military” missions is endless, incredibly expensive and distract from the Pentagon’s primary warfighting mission. 

The Pentagon already has an official designated to translate the QDR’s climate change recommendations into strategy.  Amanda Dory, the deputy assistant secretary of defense for strategy, leads a group tasked to incorporate climate change into strategy.  Her group likely uses climate modeling to guide their work such as an exercise at the National Defense University that explored the potential impact of a destructive flood in Bangladesh that sent refugees streaming into neighboring India, touching off conflicts.  

Dory can also draw from Pentagon studies to inform her climate change strategy.  In 2003, the Pentagon commissioned a report warning that climate change could “…potentially destabilize the geopolitical environment, leading to skirmishes, battles, and even war due to resource constraints.”  And a 2007 study by the Center for Naval Analysis warned that climate change is a “threat multiplier” with “the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today.”  That report lost credibility, however, because it uncritically cites the IPCC Himalayan glacier study as evidence of the threat of climate change. 

The Pentagon also has a “Task Force Climate Change” reportedly to better understand and evaluate its implications for maritime security.  This group assesses “…the Navy’s preparedness to respond to emerging requirements and to develop a science-based timeline for future Navy actions regarding climate change,” says Rear Adm. David Titley, the Navy’s senior oceanographer.  Apparently this task force bought into the climate change proponents’ science.

Obama’s Pentagon climate change cadre has Congressional allies.  Last week, Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.), chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, told a climate forum on Capitol Hill “We have not changed our goals one bit.”  He cited the national security-climate link to point out that the QDR for the first time will list climate change “…as an instability factor that affects our troops and may, in fact, end up costing us lives down the road because of what happens to our readiness and to our posterity.”  Does this mean Kerry favors resourcing a separate climate change unit?

Presidential candidate Obama said “Few challenges facing America – and the world – are more urgent than combating climate change.”  Obviously, he expects the military to become part of his administration’s radical climate change effort even if it drains resources from other critical missions.

That’s why once the dust settles from the new QDR the administration will seek to bring synergy to its effort by standing up a Pentagon office for climate change-related operations.  And before the end of Obama’s term, expect him to stand-up a new command to address this complex issue. That is, unless Congress gains some common sense and kills the military’s environmentalist role.