House Foreign Affairs Committee Examines Effects of Climate Change on National Security

Apr 5, 2019

The House Committee on Foreign Affairs recently held a hearing on “How Climate Change Threatens U.S. National Security”. Rep. Bill Keating (D-MA), chairman of the Subcommittee on Europe, Eurasia, Energy and the Environment opened the briefing by noting that climate change and its impact on national security is something the government has been monitoring for decades. He backed up the seriousness with which the government views this issue by asserting, “It’s absolutely imperative that we grapple with the challenge of climate change.”

While the focus of the hearing was on how climate change is affecting U.S. national security with other foreign players, witness Vice Admiral Dennis V. McGinn, USN (Ret), Former Assistant Secretary of the Navy for Energy, Installations and Environment also made a point of noting that here in the U.S., the effects of climate change have been felt very deeply by the armed forces and had a direct impact on military installations. He explained that increased extreme weather such as flooding and wildfires had prompted the evacuations of several bases located around the country including Camp Lejeune in North Carolina and Point Mugu in North Carolina.

Looking globally, Vice Adm. McGinn noted that conflicts due to climate change will increasingly draw U.S. military intervention. “We are increasingly seeing the prospect of conflict driven by control of rivers, and the possibility of one nation trying to limit water to another.” Additionally, McGinn noted the rise of climate-driven unemployment, displacement and migration will have an effect on national security, “creating a pool of prospective recruits for violent, extremist organizations.”

Along with Vice Adm. McGinn, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security Sherri Goodman also testified. She opened her testimony asserting that “While climate discussions have been polarized, there has been one exception: security.” Goodman also touched on the issue of shared resources and access to water and the impact this will have in drawing outside military intervention. Goodman also noted that the arctic is an area of concern. As the ice melts and more of the arctic becomes accessible, this could “embolden our adversaries” to become more aggressive and pose a greater threat to U.S. national security down the line.

To view an archived version of the webcast in full, click here:
https://foreignaffairs.house.gov/2019/4/how-climate-change-threatens-u-s-national-security