The GOP vs. The Reality of Climate Change

Climate change is a major national security threat. To say otherwise is foolish.

The recent CNN GOP debate was the first since the horrific Paris attacks and San Bernardino shooting and so naturally therefore, national security issues dominated the focus of the debate. However, climate change, one of the most challenging national security threats of our time, was shamefully ignored.

Relegating the importance of climate change is a pernicious problem in itself, with only 22 percent of Republicans stating that they consider global climate change to be a "major threat" to the nation's well-being. What makes blindness of the issue of climate change all the more troubling, however, is that the issue of climate change was the primary, centre-stage international issue recently as 196 nations reached an accord at the Paris Conference to keep global temperature increases to "well below" 2C.

I call the problem of relegating the importance, or denying, the importance of climate change a Republican issue, largely because it is so. However, at the same time one cannot deny that the media tend to too often, be it CNN in the most recent Republican debate, or ABC in the most Democratic debate, omit referring to climate change enough let alone debate policy prescriptions.

To focus on this issue of not taking climate change seriously, however, take the example of Governor John Kasich, regarded as one of the more moderate candidates, who during the CNN debate stated: "When I see they had a climate conference over in Paris, they should have been talking about destroying ISIS because they're involved in virtually every country," as if the United States is unable to tackle multiple challenges at once.

In a similar vein, the frontrunner Donald Trump similarly sputtered,"The biggest problem this world has today is not President Obama with global warming, which is inconceivable."

While Trump does deny the facts, Kasich at least acknowledges that human-induced climate change is a reality. However, its particularly alarming that some similar reality-deniers actually hold prominent roles on the issues such as Ted Cruz who is the Chairman of the U.S. Senate Commerce Subcommittee on Space, Science and Competitiveness and happens to be at odds with the overwhelming consensus.

Worst of all, however, is Senator James Inhofe who brought a snowball into Congress, supposedly as evidence that climate change is a non-reality. The current chairman of the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works, Inhofe's sentiment was further expressed in October 2014, when he stated, "It is disappointing, but not surprising, that the president and his administration would focus on climate change when there are other, legitimate threats in the world."

Herein lies this notion again that major national security issues cannot be simultaneously addressed, that working to abate the deleterious effects of climate change somehow softens the offensive against terrorism.

Before highlighting how climate change is clearly a national security issue, it ought to be noted that many within the GOP, including of course Cruz, but also Rubio, repudiate the figure that 97 percent of scientists acknowledge human-induced climate change as a 'bogus' report.

That so-called 'bogus' report, was in fact a survey conducted by John Cook of University of Queensland, who surveyed 12,000 abstracts of peer-reviewed papers on climate change and of the 4,000 responses found that 97% acknowledged the scientific reality. However, even if that figure of 97 percent isn't taken, how about the survey conducted by James Powell that counts the number of authors from November, 2012 to December, 2013 who explicitly deny global warming based on more than 2000 peer-reviewed publications. Powell found 9163 agree with the consensus, 1 disagree.

The Pentagon calls climate change a 'threat multiplier' and it would be the rational position to prioritise climate change as a national security threat and to treat it as such.

Take the example of Syria where severe drought has greatly exacerbated conflict and has undoubtedly fuelled the flow of refugees leaving Syria. Added to that, the National Academy of Sciences concluded that Syria's drought was and is an exacerbation of the conflict and the Center for Climate and Security similarly notes the linkage between rising temperatures to Syria's unrest.

Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel remarked in October 2014 that, "Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration."

Countries compete over resources, such as oil or water, due to scarcity. An effect of climate change without effective abatement in the future will be an intensification in resource competition and degraded environments and that will demand of countries that aren't as heavily impacted, largely the wealthier countries, to provide greater humanitarian assistance. Not just the United States but governments around the world can either work to abate the issue and face some of its consequences, or ignore or deny the issue and face the consequences on a far larger scale with greater severity.

Climate change is a major national security issue and confronting the issue should not be so political or partisan. It just so happens, however, that one party embraces the facts, whereas one party tends to run away from them.