Monday, September 21, 2009

Momentum builds for national security

Guest post by Frankie Sturm and Matt Rhoades

Frankie Sturm is communications director at the Truman National Security Project and a free-lance journalist. Matt Rhoades works on Operation FREE for the Truman Project, where he is an intern.

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Operation FREE, a coalition of national security experts and military veterans, has been a leading voice in arguing that climate change and an out-dated energy policy are threats to U.S. national security. Climate change is real, it is a "threat multiplier," and it represents a major increase in the threats our military will have to confront in the coming years. Operation FREE is advocating, on these grounds, for bold climate and energy legislation this year.

Here is the concern: If the climate continues to change at its current pace, human access to food and water will diminish, resulting in fierce competition for those resources. Populations in heavily affected areas will migrate en masse to lands rich in resources, creating conflict with the local population. Deep cultural and religious divisions will exacerbate those resource conflicts, resulting in chaos, instability, and fertile recruiting grounds for extremists and terrorists. Operation FREE has been raising the awareness of these, and other, threats and advocating for a change in climate and energy policy. Now the media are picking up on the message.

In the past two weeks alone there has been a noticeable increase in media coverage devoted to the national security implications of climate change and energy policy. For example, the Los Angeles Times and the Chicago Tribune recently ran reports on the shift in strategy away from "climate legislation as a jobs creator" to "climate legislation as necessary for national security." The Philadelphia Inquirer ran a piece that noted that climate legislation will reduce U.S. dependency on foreign oil. And last week, The Miami Herald reported that "a bipartisan group of former presidential advisors, Cabinet members, senators and military leaders" are arguing that "America's national security is at risk unless Congress and the Obama administration end partisan wrangling and agree on legislation to reduce U.S. contributions to climate change." As the media reports the message of national security, public support for climate and energy legislation remains strong.

The most recent Washington Post-ABC News poll shows that nearly six in ten Americans support the climate and energy plans being developed by Congress and the Obama Administration. Support is even stronger among young Americans. 75 percent of 18- to 29-year olds support the American Clean Energy and Security Act as passed by the House of Representatives and 65 percent of that same demographic say they are less likely to vote to re-elect a senator who votes "no" on the Senate version of the climate bill.

The bill is scheduled to be introduced in the Senate by the end of September. Senators Barbara Boxer and John Kerry will champion the bill in the chamber, but it will be subject to debate and the amendment process in six Senate committees before a final debate and vote in the full chamber. Passage will require strong public support and positive media coverage. Operation FREE and its partners are working diligently to focus the public and the media on the positive effect climate and energy legislation will have on our national security.

(Cross-posted from Operation FREE.)

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