Opinion: Why the military cares about climate change

Apr 23, 2021, 11:48 AM | Updated: 11:49 am

Mike Lee makes his closing remarks during the impeachment trial hearings, saying he will vote to acquit President Donald Trump.

This is an editorial piece. The opinions expressed here are solely those of the author and are not associated with the KSL newsroom.

I had the chance to talk with Senator Mike Lee this morning on the topic of children wearing masks, but since I had him on the line, I thought I’d ask him about the summit of world leaders going on today on the topic of climate change. Since it was the first time in my memory that the senator and I had spoken on climate change, I asked for his general view. 

Thinking over Sen. Lee’s thoughts on climate change 

“Climates do change. That’s what they do,” he answered. “We know our climate is changing. That doesn’t answer the subsidiary question to that of to what extent is human activity responsible for that and to what extent can we do anything about it by changes to public policy.”

I was specifically curious as to whether he agreed with previous assessments of the United States military that climate change presented a threat to our national security.

He responded, “The reason I get nervous when I hear military leaders talking about this is I want them to be focused on military issues. They don’t have the tools to change the climate in the military. There are those in Congress who do believe we have some tools. I disagree with the tools that have been proposed so far. I think we’ll be better off promoting the development of technologies by allowing for economic growth.”

I thought a lot about what the senator had to say after we got off the air. With my limited understanding, he’s right that the military doesn’t have tools to change the climate, per se, but that doesn’t mean that they aren’t in a position to be keenly interested in climate change, perhaps more so than the rest of us. When the sea temperature rises and hurricanes destroy coasts of the United States repeatedly, who goes in to stabilize the area? The National Guard. When fires rage affected by increased temperature and drought, who is called after the firefighters? The National Guard. When people around the world lose their coastal homes and begin migrating to the United States, who is called to bring the peace? The United States military. Not to mention the U.S. military bases on the coasts that are threatened by storms. 

This is the way I see it. The military can’t change the climate, but they are the ones called in to clean up the mess caused by climate change. The policymakers have the luxury of endless debate while the sea level rises, the droughts get worse, the temperature goes up and the cost of food keeps going up. They don’t get called to rescue survivors, rebuild lost communities or keep the peace. That would be the military. So, with all due respect, I do believe that climate change is their business, which makes it a matter of national security.

But as Dennis Miller used to say, “That’s just my opinion. I could be wrong.”


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Opinion: Why the military cares about climate change