WASHINGTON Global climate change acts as a
"threat multiplier" in some of the world's most volatile areas,
and raises tensions even in stable regions, 11 former U.S.
military leaders warned on Monday.
To combat this, they urged immediate planning and
international cooperation without waiting for total certainty
on the consequences of global warming.
"We can't wait until we have absolute certainty," retired
Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former U.S. Army chief of staff, said
at a briefing where the report was released. "We know that we
never have 100 percent certainty and ... if we wait, we might
wait too long."
The military leaders' assessment of the national and
international security risks posed by global warming was made
public on the eve of the first debate in the U.N. Security
Council on climate change.
Their report found climate change is a "threat multiplier
for instability in some of the most volatile regions of the
Extreme weather events, drought, flooding, sea level rises,
retreating glaciers, habitat shifts and the increased spread of
life-threatening diseases are part of the threat that could
prompt U.S. military involvement, the report found.
These climate problems factors will make life more
difficult in places that are already unstable, including parts
of Africa, Asia and the Middle East, causing widespread
political instability and the likelihood of failed states.
"The U.S. may be drawn more frequently into these
situations, either alone or with allies, to help provide
stability before conditions worsen and are exploited by
extremists," the report said.
Beyond this, the United States and Europe could be
pressured to accept environmental refugees as drought increases
and food production declines in parts of Latin America and
The United States -- the world's largest emitter of
greenhouse gases that spur climate change -- needs to form
strong partnerships with developed and developing countries,
including China and India, where emissions and economic power
are growing, the report said.
"This is an issue that the United States alone can't
solve," said retired Adm. Joseph Prueher, former commander in
chief of the U.S. Pacific Command and U.S. ambassador to China.
Vice Adm. Richard Truly, a former astronaut and NASA
administrator, noted the threat of global warming will be
different from other threats to stability.
"It's not going to be the sudden appearance of something
that we can deploy, plan on and deal with," Truly said. "It's
going to come upon us very slowly in an incremental fashion ...
it's going to be happening essentially everywhere all at the
same time ...
"These are going to be the kind of hard-to-predict stresses
that go beyond climate into geopolitics," Truly said.
The report, published by the non-partisan CNA Corporation
think tank, adds to a chorus of unexpected voices calling for
urgent action to curb global warming.
These include corporate leaders who joined with
environmental groups to call for mandatory caps on U.S. carbon
emissions, evangelical Christians who called for environmental
stewardship, and the U.S. Supreme Court, which ruled this month
that the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has the power to
regulate greenhouse gas emissions as pollutants.