WASHINGTON -- Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.), chairman of the Senate Homeland Security and Governmental Affairs Committee, says he disagrees with the Pentagon's assessment that climate change is a national security concern.
The Pentagon released a report in October that assessed the national security implications of climate change. "Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning," wrote former Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in the forward to the report. "Our armed forces must prepare for a future with a wide spectrum of possible threats, weighing risks and probabilities to ensure that we will continue to keep our country secure."
But Johnson said at an event in Sherwood, Wisconsin, on Saturday that he did not concur with the Pentagon's analysis.
"I disagree with that assessment," Johnson tells a questioner at the event, which the Democrat-aligned political group American Bridge 21st Century captured on video. "We're sitting here in Wisconsin. Twenty-some thousand years ago this was covered by about 5,000 feet of glaciers."
"I do not deny climate change," he continues. "The climate has always been changing."
He goes on to say that he thinks the United States "shouldn't spend a dime addressing it because our limited resources are spent better elsewhere."
Despite Johnson's take on the issue, there has been growing concern in the national security community about the threats of climate change, including sea level rise and migration caused by droughts or food shortages. The Obama administration's national security strategy document released in February lists climate change as an "an urgent and growing threat." And the Center for Naval Analyses called climate change a national security concern last year in a report that included a forward from former Homeland Security Secretary Michael Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, and former Obama Defense Secretary Leon Panetta.
Johnson has made similar arguments before, alleging "the science is far from settled" on climate change, and has accused groups that work on the issue of waging "an environmental jihad." He has also previously denied being a denier, stating instead that he doesn't "have a belief one way or the other."
"Ignorance is bliss and it probably helps Ron Johnson sleep at night," said American Bridge spokesman Ben Ray. "But the fact that the chairman of Homeland Security thinks the risks of climate change are irrelevant sure doesn't help the rest of us."
Johnson's office did not respond to a request for comment.