Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta made an impassioned plea this week for leaders to take a serious look at the threats to national security from climate change.
"There are environmental threats which constitute threats to our national security...Rising sea levels, to severe droughts, to the melting of the polar caps, to more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief," Panetta told a meeting of the Environmental Defense Fund Wednesday.
Panetta also made the now familiar argument that our dependence on fossil fuels makes it necessary for us to be engaged in volatile and often unfriendly regions of the world.
"These strategic and practical considerations weigh heavily on us at the Department of Defense. They weighed heavily on us as we developed our new defense strategy."
The EDF speech was the strongest argument yet tying national security concerns to environmental ones. The Defense Department has long been in favor of green battlefield technology. These strategies not only save the DoD money, but also aides to staunch the kinds of environmental concerns Panetta highlighted this week.
But opponents to green military technology said the speech and any attempt to implement such a strategy is an unnecessary bridging of national security and politics.
"I've always thought a lot of Secretary Panetta - therefore, I can't believe he caved in to President Obama in trying to legitimize global warming alarmism," Senator James Inhofe (R-Okla.), Ranking Member of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works said in a statement Friday.
"The real threat to national security are policies that force DoD to expend increasing amounts of its scare resources on extremely expensive alternative energy," the Senator, also a senior member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said.
But recent criticism has not slowed down the DoD's green push. Last year, the DoD spent around $15 billion to fuel its fighters, tanks and ships, Panetta told the EDF. Working to use alternative fuels and cut costs using green technology elsewhere behooves the Department and planet earth, he added.
Panetta also used the speech to push for the U.S. to sign the United Nations Convention on the Law of the Sea (UNCLOS). The United States is the only industrialized country who has yet to sign UNCLOS, which Panetta said is now even more of a key treaty considering glacial melt in the polar regions.
"As someone who grew up in Monterey, California, which as many of you know is world famous for its beautiful coastline and the Monterey Bay National Marine Sanctuary, I've had a life-long interest in protecting our nation's precious resources," Panetta said Wednesday.
"Let me assure you that DoD is helping to lead this nation when it comes to preserving our environment and building a more sustainable and secure energy future.'
In the next fiscal year, Panetta detailed a plan for the DoD to invest more than $1 billion in more efficient aircraft and aircraft engines, hybrid electric drives for ships, improved generators and micro-grids for combat bases and combat vehicle energy efficiency programs. A further $1 billion will be invested to ensure U.S.-based installations are using next-generation technology.
"That's our mission, that's our goal, and that is the key to giving our children a better life in the 21st Century."
by RTT Staff Writer
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