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Symposium Highlights

Published onApr 17, 2018
Symposium Highlights

John Morton:

“Department of Defense key players understand deeply that climate change is happening. They've seen it and they've seen it for long periods of time. They have a leader in Secretary Mattis who is now on the record as recognizing publically that climate change is happening. That obviously puts him at odds with his boss, the President of the United States. But within the Department of Defense, he calls the shots and he makes decisions about how to allocate budgets, how to allocate priorities.

 So we have the Secretary of Defense on the record saying that he and his department are going to take climate change into account. He knows this because, of course, Annapolis floods on a high tide day, because sea lanes are opening in the Arctic and posing all sorts of new geopolitical challenges that simply did not exist two, five, or 10 years ago.

 He knows this because there's a dramatic rise in the number of environmental refugees around the world that are posing serious security considerations. The good news is the military understands. The second piece of good news is that our states and local governments get it and I think we will continue to see significant leadership at the state and local level where the federal government begins to pull back.”

Jim Goudreau:

 “ . . . from my perspective having served in the navy for two and a half decades, as a logistician first and then as someone who was responsible for climate and energy resilience issues inside the Pentagon is that the military tends to be a very practical organization and the reality is change is happening. If you take a look at what we need to do and why we've taken action, why we're thinking about certain things, there's a compelling need for action. Anytime you do something across the military it's because there is change that we recognize or there's the risk for change. The military, especially in the US military, thinks not in terms of quarterly earning cycles or any other reports, but decades, tens of decades.

 From a strategic perspective, if you want to change course, if you want to anticipate a risk or a threat, you have to see beyond the horizon, because if you want to do something inside our government, it takes decades to create a new program, to resource a new program that has the right things in place.

 From the perspective of whether you get locked into why the change is happening, the root cause of change, how rapidly is it happening, what model are you using, is the model wrong, is it right, every model is wrong. There’s good enough actionable intelligence to do something, to react to that change, to anticipate the change, and hopefully shape the future in a way that you want as opposed to simply reacting time after time, just body blow after body blow after body blow.”

Sarah Light:

“it's really important to distinguish national security from energy independence. The March 28th executive order signed by President Trump is all about energy independence, that’s about domestic coal. Whereas national security arguably is something different.

I think it's very important to be really specific about what we mean, and there is a risk of backlash. Edward Maibach who is a climate communication author and Teresa Meyers did a study a few years ago. They had this vision that America is divided into six different groups, from highest belief in global warming to lowest belief in global warming, or from most concerned to the least concerned.

They compared three different potential frames: one was the national security frame, one was the environmental frame, and one was the public health frame. What they found, they were asking for affective response, what's your emotional response to this message? What they found was that, if you looks at what makes people angry, the people who were most dismissive of climate change got the most angry when they were presented with the framing that this is about national security.

So yes I also believe that framing climate as a national security issue is something that has the potential to cross the political spectrum, and I continue to test that, but there are some studies out there, that suggest there may be political backlash. I think that's important to keep in mind.”

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