You’d think Secretary of Defense James Mattis was as concerned with man-made climate change as the head of Greenpeace based on reporting of leaked written statements he sent to lawmakers in January.
“U.S. Defense Secretary James Mattis says climate change is already destabilizing the world,” the UK Independent reported from a leaked questionnaire obtained by ProPublica. The Huffington Post reported Mattis said “climate change is real and threatening global stability.”
ProPublica spun it as “Mattis’ unpublished testimony before a Senate panel recognizes a threat others in the administration reject or minimize.”
But the media is painting the wrong picture about his comments.
The Department of Defense has viewed climate change ‚Äìwhether man-made or natural — as a national security concern for at least a decade.
His boilerplate remarks reflect the highly risk-averse thinking of officials in both the Bush and Obama administrations that climate change is one of many scenarios the military may need to adapt to.
Here’s what Mattis wrote in his answers to New Hampshire Sen. Jeanne Shaheen:
Shaheen: “I understand that while you were commander of U.S. Joint Forces Command you signed off on a document called the Joint Operating Environment, which listed climate change as one of the security threats the military will face in the next quarter-century. Do you believe climate change is a security threat?”
Mattis: “Climate change can be a driver of instability, and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”
Shaheen: “General Mattis, how should the military prepare to address this threat?”
Mattis: “As I noted above, climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response. If confirmed, I will ensure that the Department of Defense plays its appropriate role within such a response by addressing national security aspects.”
In a reply to another question, Mattis said:
“I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”
Mattis also said “[c]limate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”
“It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning,” he said.
Mattis’s remarks reflect the thinking of the Pentagon for at least a decade, so they should come as no surprise. Mattis never assigns blame for climate change to humans or nature, nor does he call for the abandonment of carbon dioxide-emitting fuels. That’s not exactly a ringing endorsement of the “97 percent” consensus we often hear from liberals.
The Pentagon has considered climate change a national security concern for at least a decade, in part, for its potential to open up new shipping routes and resources in the Arctic. A shrinking Arctic, for example, presents new security challenges no matter what the root cause.
If the U.S. military were operating during the “Dust Bowl” of the 1930s, the climate would certainly be a consideration, but pinning down the cause of those historic droughts is not in the military’s purview — anticipating and mitigating risk are.
That’s a huge difference from what liberals argue.
Democrats turned that concern into a talking pointing in 2009 to convince Republican senators to support cap and trade legislation.
President Barack Obama took the issue to new partisan heights. Obama made fighting global warming a major part of his foreign policy strategy and even told U.S. Coast Guard Academy graduates it was “an immediate risk to our national security.”
Obama and then-Secretary of State John Kerry suggested global warming “contributed” to the Syrian civil war and rise of Islamic State.
It shouldn’t really be surprising that reporters hyped up Mattis’s remarks. The media drudged up similar reports when President Donald Trump first nominated Mattis to head the Defense Department back in December.