President Barack Obama is less than stalwart in the fight against ISIS and doesn’t seem overly concerned about Vladimir Putin’s predation in Ukraine or China’s aggression in the South China Sea. It is the fight against climate change, an allegedly dire threat to the nation’s security, that brings out his inner Churchill.
In remarks to the Coast Guard Academy commencement, Obama pledged his undying hostility to climate change and his determination to fight it on the beaches and in the fields. He called it “one of the most severe threats” we face and “an immediate risk to our national security.” President Obama is to climate change what Cato the Elder was to Carthage.
He hailed the Coast Guard for building more fuel-efficient cutters, and the Marines for deploying with portable solar panels. It was one of the most insipid calls to arms ever made by an American commander in chief, and there is unlikely to be much competition until President Elizabeth Warren rallies the U.S. Navy against income inequality.
From the president’s urgency, you would think that climate change is beheading American hostages and taking over large swathes of Middle Eastern countries, toward the end of establishing a hostile climate-change empire. The reality is that, even accepting his premises about the state of the science, he can only point to laughably tenuous connections between climate change and national security.
The president cited drought as one of the causes of the Syrian civil war. Yet an article in the journal Middle Eastern Studies notes that Israel, Jordan and Lebanon experienced drought in 2007-2008. None of them collapsed into a genocidal hellhole. Nor is drought unusual in Syria. According to the article, “Over the last 50 years, from 1961 to 2009, Syria experienced nearly 25 years of drought, which represents over 40 percent of the period.”
Quite reasonably, the article counsels focusing on the corrupt and dysfunctional Syria government as the fundamental cause of the uprising. The drought “should be considered the backdrop of years of mismanagement, unsustainable policy making and rising rural poverty, which fueled pre-existing discontent and sparked the first protests.” Not to mention the fact that countries all over the Middle East and North Africa experienced revolts at the same time.
The president warned of how climate change could create “mass migrations,” the kind of disruption that a White House document says will disproportionately affect Africa and Asia. Even if this is true, how will it implicate our national security? The United States was content to stand by while 800,000 people died in the Rwandan genocide and more than 5 million in Congo’s civil war. If that mass slaughter didn’t move us, we aren’t going to mobilize the troops to manage climate-driven mass migrations.
Another climate-change hot spot is the Arctic, with President Obama predicting that summers could be ice-free there by around 2050. Man the battle stations? Well, no. A Brookings Institution article notes that “what we’re seeing in the Arctic is that receding ice is triggering commercial competition and governance cooperation; not conflict.”
Typically, the president implied clear and present dangers from climate change, although the “consensus” science he purports to champion projects effects on extreme weather roughly 80 years from now. By then today’s cadets will have long ago passed the baton of the fearsome battle against climate change to subsequent generations.
Of course, if climate change were a true enemy of the United States, President Obama would extend a hand of peace, or declare victory and go home.
Defining climate change as a national-security threat is simply a rhetorical ploy to stoke alarmism, in hopes of creating support for self-sacrificial anti-carbon policies that can’t survive any reasonable cost-benefit analysis. War is the health of the state, the writer Randolph Bourne once said. In this case, it is specifically the health of Environmental Protection Agency rules and global regulations.
Rich Lowry can be reached via e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.