THE BLOG

A Columnist's Lament

06/03/2015 05:49 pm ET | Updated Jun 03, 2016

Conservative columnist Cal Thomas recently opined that sound reporting should be a prerequisite for credible commentary, or any journalistic endeavor for that matter.

One couldn't agree with him more. Unfortunately, Thomas hasn't always followed his own counsel. A prime example is the ridicule he heaped on President Obama's commencement address to the U.S. Coast Guard Academy.

In the speech, Obama focused on the national security risk posed by climate change, with his presentation based largely on the most recent (2014) Pentagon assessment of the threat.

That prompted Thomas in a May 25th Washington Times column to characterize the president's remarks as "hot air". Thomas went on to say that Obama's address paled in comparison to a commencement speech delivered at South Hampton College in Long Island by an individual dressed as "Kermit the Frog".

To discredit the notion of climate change jeopardizing national stability, Thomas turned to the fringe. He cited a few contrarians who question the existence of human-generated climate change, much less its role as a threat.

Yet as previously noted, Obama is not the only one who considers climate change a national security concern.

If Thomas had bothered to exert due reportorial diligence, he would have acknowledged that the Pentagon under both Democratic and Republican Administrations has engaged in evaluating--and ultimately affirming--climate change's destabilizing menace to our shores. For example, military analysts posit that climate change-related prolonged drought in the developing world exacerbates poverty and political tensions that create ideal conditions for terrorist recruitment and disruptive mass migration.

Before abandoning Obama in favor of Kermit the Frog, Thomas ought to have talked with senior retired military officers at the Center for Climate and Security. These experienced national security experts are part of the Center's staff monitoring the Pentagon's analytical output.
They would have told Thomas something similar to the joint statement they released in response to the Defense Department's latest report. "The Pentagon correctly sees climate change as a threat to the nation that will have to be dealt with immediately. Now our policymakers need to follow the military's lead, given that the nation's security risks from climate change are accelerating."

Pentagon analysts make a credible case that climate change-related sea level rise threatens our coastal transportation systems. In addition, they warn that increasingly extreme weather events are potential disruptors of domestic energy supply and distribution. The military's fear is that both sea's and weather's damaging deviations could compromise future defense missions.
From a journalistic perspective, what is to be deduced from Thomas' rant? If any hot air was circulating in connection with Obama's Coast Guard Academy commencement speech, it wasn't emanating from the president.