Secure Nation, Healthy Earth

Congress can strengthen U.S. national security and protect the environment by making policy to confront global warming a priority.

Earlier today the Senate Foreign Relations Committee held a hearing on the threat to national security posed by global warming while—just a few doors down the hall—the Subcommittee on Global Warming and Wildlife Protection heard testimony on the economic benefits of greenhouse gas reductions.

Developing clean alternative energy sources that would allow us to reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that cause global warming wouldn’t just be a boon to the environment. It would also strengthen our national security by allowing us to reduce funding for hostile and unstable regimes with our oil purchases.

A report recently released by the Military Advisory Board found that global warming poses a serious threat to our national security because it will lead to conflicts over water shortages, increased famine, political instability due to disease and rising sea levels, and millions of additional refugees who are forced to flee their homelands because of the effects of global warming. Climate change’s effects can “be an incubator of civil strife, genocide and the growth of terrorism,” the board wrote.

The Center for American Progress advocates strengthening national security by focusing on clean alternative energy sources, as well as reducing the emissions that cause global warming. On the energy front, CAP proposes that we reduce our dependence on oil and natural gas by setting a goal of producing at least 25 percent of the liquid fuel consumed in the United States from renewable sources by 2025. Achieving this goal will require that the federal government and businesses work together to invest in biofuels research.

Other measures CAP advocates include promotion of the development of a global liquefied natural gas market; investments in long-term research necessary to deploy plug-in hybrid vehicles; and, creation of additional incentives and mandates to increase energy efficiency. In addition an increase in Corporate Average Fuel Economy standards and incentives for U.S. automakers to increase their vehicles’ average fuel efficiency would reduce overall demand for transportation fuels and pollution from production and combustion.

Research and investments in new clean alternative energy sources that enable us to reduce our greenhouse gas emissions would be a significant step forward. In addition to this research into clean alternative fuels, we need other measures to prevent the global average temperature from rising more than 3.6 degrees Fahrenheit above pre-industrial levels. CAP’s plan to prevent further warming includes the following policies:

  • The immediate creation of a national cap and reduction of emissions from power plants and other industrial sources.
  • Economy-wide implementation that rewards states and companies that make early reductions, and provides opportunities for energy efficiency, renewable energy, and agriculture and forestry industries to participate.
  • Potential for integration into international carbon credit trading markets in the future.

Investment in clean alternative fuel sources will have a substantial payoff. We’ll not only reduce the greenhouse gas emissions that damage the environment, we’ll also reduce the extent to which we fund regimes hostile to U.S. interests with our oil purchases. Congress can and should take the concrete steps in CAP’s energy security and emissions-reduction strategies to make progress on two challenges the United States must confront.

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