There is much debate over the extent that humans are responsible for climate change, and to what extent we need to take measures to confront it. Some claim we need to dramatically reduce emissions, others (like me) claim nothing at all needs to be done. However, I hope there is one thing we can all agree on: the military should play no role in confronting climate change. If the citizens of a country choose to get together and take some action to try and save the planet, that’s fine, but when a military (or collection of militaries) decides to save the planet themselves, that’s dangerous. I bring this up because the current Secretary General of NATO, Anders Fogh Rasmussen, wants the military to take action and confront climate change.
I noticed this when President Obama wrote an op-ed in the NYT entitled Europe and America, Aligned for the Future. In this article he re-affirms the bond between the US and Europe, with a particular emphasis on NATO. Something in the article struck me as odd. In the third paragraph Obama says:
As an alliance of democratic nations, NATO ensures our collective defense and helps strengthen young democracies. Europe and the United States are working together to prevent the spread of nuclear weapons, promote peace in the Middle East and confront climate change. And as we have seen in the recent security alert in Europe and the thwarted plot to detonate explosives on trans-Atlantic cargo flights, we cooperate closely every day to prevent terrorist attacks and keep our citizens safe.
NATO is a military alliance, so the mention of climate change seemed out of place. It wasn’t mentioned again, and there was no explanation as to what NATO has done to confront climate change. I began searching for NATO’s ties to climate change, and that’s when I found the outspoken NATO Secretary General, Anders Fogh Rasmussen. He took the office in August 2009, and since then has made climate change a top priority for this immensely powerful collection of militaries. The NATO Secretary General is the top spokesman for the group, and he has made clear his views on the subject. In a December 2009 article on the Huffington Post, he said this (excerpts, emphasis mine):
Some may wonder why NATO would be interested in climate change. To me, this is a bit like asking why a person would be interested in a change in gravity. While gravity does not dictate what you choose to do at any given moment, it does tend to push all your choices in a common direction — down. In a similar way, I venture, while climate change will not dictate what some nation-states choose to do, it will push them in a common direction: towards increased instability. For that reason, we must recognize that reducing emissions is not only an environmental imperative, but a security imperative.
Even if we stopped all emissions tomorrow, we expect that by 2040 there will still be a 2 degrees C rise in temperatures. Such a relatively modest increase will likely bring about desertification, water shortages, ocean acidification, and a drastic loss of biodiversity. It will also lead to greater competition for resources, provoke disputes over territory and farm land, spark food crises, spur migration, and hasten the collapse of fragile states. Summers like Europe’s in 2003, when thousands died, could occur with frightening regularity. And this is the best case scenario.
In sum, climate change presents security challenges of a magnitude and a complexity we have never seen before. We must be prepared for them. At the same time, we must do what we can to avoid worst-case scenarios, and curbing CO2 emissions must be a political priority for every government and industry in the world.
He continues to talk about how NATO will help, and mentions that he will visit Copenhagen because it is a ‘urgent necessity’. It isn’t just this article, here are two videos he posted online about climate change:
This guy seems to have taken lessons from the very best climate change alarmists. However, this is only one man, and he admits in the article that these are his personal views and NATO doesn’t have a definite climate change position yet. So perhaps they are only paying it lip service? Unfortunately, that doesn’t seem to be the case, because from June 6-10 of this year, NATO held a ‘science workshop’ in Iceland focusing entirely on climate change and its impacts. Here is a website which contains all the presentations, discussions, and reports from the workshop.
The presentations are fairly standard stuff at these sorts of workshops. Slide shows talking about how a certain region has been affected by climate change, presentations about sustainability and how this organization will do that, etc. The question in my mind is, how far will NATO take this? Consider the following scenario:
NATO teams up with the Met Office (they gave a presentation in Iceland) to model the effects of greenhouse emissions from Russia. They discover that if emissions continue at their present increasing rate, by 2075 the emissions will cause a 1.3 degree rise in the earth’s temperature. This increase will cause desertification, increasing water stress, and 25 million climate refugees. Based on this report, NATO gives Russia an ultimatum, reduce your emissions by 50% or risk the consequences.
I know this particular scenario seems far-fetched, but I am trying to highlight an underlying problem with NATO confronting climate change. Militaries operate by force and coercion. If they perceive a global or national threat, they can only react with force. If member nations allow NATO to determine what sort of threat climate change poses, then they may have to deal with NATO’s solutions to the problem. When the Secretary General of NATO is making apocalyptic claims about the effects of climate change, we need to ensure that NATO doesn’t attempt drastic measures to solve the problem.