Ken Buck gets it wrong about DOD #climatechange plan

January to May global temperatures 2016 via NOAA.
January to May global temperatures 2016 via NOAA.

But at least he admitted that the planet is warming.

From Politico (Danny Vinick):

DOD officials have been warning for years that climate change could have dire consequences on U.S. national security. Increased refugee flows, which are already straining Europe, are likely to accelerate as the climate heats up and have the potential to destabilize large swaths of the world, including the Middle East and South Pacific. The “oil wars” of the 20th century could give way to “water wars,” with countries competing for scarce natural resources. Higher energy costs may further strain the military’s budget and rising water levels could force the DOD to adjust locations of critical infrastructure facilities like ports.

The Department of Defense’s Directive 4715.21, released in mid-January in accordance with Obama’s 2013 executive order requiring government agencies to prepare for climate change, received little coverage when it was first published. At just 12 pages, it isn’t especially long. But according to military and climate experts, it’s a critical step toward streamlining how different offices prepare for climate change, including designating specific officials to attend to specific tasks…

Republicans say the directive is a distraction from the real threats the Pentagon should be focused on, particularly terrorist groups in the Middle East. “The military, the intelligence community [and] the domestic national security agencies should be focused on ISIS and not on climate change,” said Rep. Ken Buck (R-Colo.), who sponsored the amendment to block the funding. “The fact that the president wants to push a radical green energy agenda should not diminish our ability to counter terrorism.” Buck dismissed the idea that the military should focus on climate change as a threat: “The president has talked about an increase in the climate temperature on the planet,” he said. “It is a fraction of a degree every year. How that is a current threat to us is beyond me.” [ed. It is beyond you Congressman Buck, because you are lazy in your research, and you cherry-pick your facts.]

Dakota Wood, a senior research fellow at the Heritage Foundation who spent two decades in the Marine Corps, argued that the directive will require additional resources to implement, a costly effort in a time of tight budgets. “You’re just overloading the military with yet more tasks,” he said.

But experts who have spent years working on climate and defense issues say the directive would save money in the long run by ensuring the Defense Department accounts for climate change in its planning process. It also doesn’t require much in the way of new resources, said Sherri Goodman, a former deputy undersecretary of defense for environmental security and a fellow at the Wilson Center. “We already have meteorologists in the military,” she said. “We already have biologists. We already have military construction analysts.”

Titley said that it could also put a “chilling effect” on other DOD officials as they implement measures to adapt for climate change. The department is capable of fighting the Islamic State and preparing for climate change at the same time, he added, arguing that Buck’s position represented “almost a cartoonish or stereotype of the military’s job, that it is [only] to kill people or break things. OK. But when you are running an adult organization of $600 plus billion, you have a lot of people and you need to consider a lot of things.”

Larger infrastructure and operational changes that are necessary to address climate change will, of course, have significant costs when they take place. But foregoing such changes now will only cost more money in the future, experts say, and risk leaving the military ill-prepared for future engagements.

The military’s warnings about climate change date back to a 2008 National Intelligence Assessment issued during the Bush Administration which stated that climate change could cause disputes over natural resources as well as mass migrations, both of which could lead to further political instability. More recent DOD reports, including the 2014 quadrennial defense review, reinforced that message and advised that the Pentagon begin preparing for such a future.

While agencies within the Department of Defense have already begun such preparations, the directive is a way to streamline the separate efforts, ensuring that officials have clear responsibilities and that no job duties are ignored. Defense experts say that blocking the DOD from implementing the directive won’t stop the Pentagon’s climate change preparations in their entirety, but will cause fragmentation and wasted resources.

The House GOP’s efforts to block the directive demonstrate the political toxicity around the issue of climate change. At the best of times, government agencies struggle with long-term planning; that the Defense Department is proactively planning for future problems would normally earn praise on Capitol Hill. The Navy, for instance, has modernized its energy program to reduce fuel costs—yet has not referred to it as preparing for climate change and Republicans have not objected. That suggests that terminology matters: GOP lawmakers have become accustomed to objecting to any efforts from the Obama administration related to climate change.

Titley, who formerly led the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, said that he was careful how he referred to policies during his time in government. “There’s a program I got through the Department of Defense called our system prediction capability,” he said. “We take forecasts out to 30 years. Some people might call that short-term climate. I didn’t. The word climate is nowhere in that budget document.”

The Senate’s defense spending bill, which passed the Senate Appropriations Committee in late May but has not yet received a vote on the floor, leaves the climate change directive intact. Whether the House amendment will make it into the final bill is “above my grade” Buck said.

But experts worry that if it does find its way into law, the risks are high; such preparations are necessary now, they warn, before it’s too late. “It’s like people who drive down the road and all they can do is look 10 feet in front of them on the bumper and they’re all going about 75 mph,” said Titley. “That’s great until three cars up there are stopped. You don’t see it until you’re all of a sudden slamming on the brakes.”

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