Climate Change Threatens Our National Security

03/18/2010 05:12 am ET | Updated May 25, 2011

Climate change will be the defining issue of our generation. Not only does it threaten the air we breathe and the water we drink, but it poses a serious threat to America's national security.

On October 6th, 2009, I listened to Senator John Warner speak to the climate change-national security case at the Chrysler Museum in Norfolk, Virginia. Senator John Warner, who spent thirty years in the U.S. Senate, is working with the Pew Environment Group, touring the country to talk about the climate change-national security connection. Other distinguished guests at the town hall meeting included Virginia Delegate Joseph Bouchard, Admiral John B. Natham, and Virginia Secretary of Natural Resources Preston Bryant.

The panel discussed the link between climate change and national security, specifically addressing the implications for Hampton Roads, Virginia. This region where I grew up is one of the most vulnerable. If sea level rises as projected, many of the military bases, schools, and roads will be impacted because of their close proximity to the Atlantic Ocean and the Chesapeake Bay. We need to appreciate this possibility and prepare.

Projected climate change threatens our national security in two major ways. First, U.S. dependence on oil weakens international leverage and entangles America with hostile regimes. Dependence on foreign oil exacts a huge price tag in both dollars and in lives. Second, climate change creates chaos, tension, and human insecurity. Drought, sea level rise, disappearing glaciers, and natural disasters disrupt countries and governments. Competition for natural resources, water, and food causes further destabilization. With U.S. military as the first responders around the world, our defense resources are stretched and lives are put at risk.

The time is ripe to act. The House of Representatives approved the American Clean Energy and Security Act of 2009 (H.R. 2454) on June 26, 2009 by a vote of 219-212. On November 5, 2009, the U.S. Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works approved the Kerry-Boxer Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act (S. 1733), by a vote of 11-1. The bill now goes to the Senate floor for debate.

The Senate should advance this seminal legislation. Passing a bill on U.S. soil will send a powerful message to the United Nations Climate Change Conference in Copenhagen. In order to reach a meaningful deal on an international scale, we need to move forward with a climate bill at home.

Let us send a signal to the rest of the world. Urge the Senate to pass the Clean Energy Jobs and American Power Act.