Climate Change as a National Security Challenge

May 24, 2016

On May 24, 2016, Rep. Mike Quigley (IL-5) spoke to his colleagues on the House floor about the reality of climate change as a national security threat to the United States.

Mr. Speaker, 

As the world hurdles towards an era where climate change impacts our everyday life, we MUST recognize the consequences of our inaction.

Secretary Hagel said it best when he stated, “Climate change is a global problem. Its impacts do not respect national borders.” 

Despite this, we continue to live in a bubble of denial. 

It is abundantly clear that climate change is rapidly altering the world around us, contributing to higher temperatures, changing seasonal patterns, and driving the loss of habitats and species.
The scientific evidence demonstrating the realities of climate change is vast and ever-growing. 

Just this week, NASA reported that April 2016 was the warmest April ever recorded.

In fact, NASA said there is “a greater than 99 percent chance that 2016 will be the hottest year ever recorded.” 

If this proves to be true, 2016 will beat our previous record holder, 2015. 

And 2015 beat our previous record holder, 2014. 

Seeing a trend here? 
Earth’s changing temperature does not just threaten the existence of the plants and animals.

Climate change also affects our national security at home and abroad. 

As a Member of the House Intelligence Committee, I am briefed weekly on our most pressing and urgent threats, 

and it is abundantly clear that climate change is one of them. 

Climate change is what we consider a “threat multiplier,” meaning it is exacerbating many of the challenges we confront around the world today and will produce new challenges for us in the future. 

As a global power with strategic interests around the world, climate change is immensely important to us because of the impact it has on the regional stability of our allies.

Internationally, climate change is already causing humanitarian disasters and resource scarcity that accelerates instability, contributes to political violence, and undermines weak governments. 

Examples of these repercussions are being seen around the world today.  

Climate change-induced drought in the Middle East and Africa is leading to conflicts over food and water, 

Escalating longstanding regional and ethnic tensions into violent clashes. 

Rising sea levels are putting people and food supplies in vulnerable coastal regions at risk, threatening to displace countless people. 

The increasing scarcity of resources in regions across the globe is stressing governments that are trying to provide basic needs for their citizens. 

In already-volatile regions of the world, these are highly dangerous conditions that can enable terrorist activity and exacerbate refugee crises.

As these threats around the world continue to multiply due to climate change, 

The U.S. is forced to extend our limited resources in humanitarian aid and military security to more locations in an effort to keep the peace, protect our interests and allies, and avoid major conflicts.

And it’s not just wonky scientists and policymakers that are sounding the alarm. 

The Department of Defense declared that the threat of climate change will affect the Pentagon’s ability to defend the nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security. 

The CIA and the Department of State have also identified climate change as a national security challenge. 

At the federal level, Congress is the only entity that continues to refuse to act on this issue.

We are already experiencing the impacts of climate change from super storms in the U.S. to devastating droughts in the Middle East. 

As climate change continues to strain economies and societies across the world, 

it will only create additional resource burdens and impact the way our military executes its missions, forcing our military to spend more on crisis prevention, humanitarian assistance, and government stabilization.

This is why we have to act now. 

It’s time my colleagues realize that the debate is over and that now is the time to deal with the very real consequences of climate change. 

As President Obama said, “to make collective decisions on behalf of a common good, we have to use our heads. 

“We have to agree that facts and evidence matter, and we have to hold our leaders and ourselves accountable.” 

While we can’t reverse climate change, we can work with our partners around the world to slow the process and protect our national security interests.  

The health and security of future generations depends on our actions today.

Thank you and I yield back.