Climate change is making the world more unsafe—We need to act on this national security threat, say lawmakers who are veterans on Flag Day

Elected Officials to Protect America highlight the need for a modernized national grid that relies on multiple clean energy sources

Today, June 14th, Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) hosted a ZOOM press conference centered around the National Security threat of Climate Change with veterans who are also elected officials. Please access the recording of the event here:

When Former Secretary of State John F. Kerry became our nation’s first Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, and the first-ever Principal to sit on the National Security Council entirely dedicated to climate change, a signal was sent around the globe that President Biden was determined to combat the existential threat the world faces. On April 22, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III said, “Today, no nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis. We face all kinds of threats in our line of work, but few of them truly deserve to be called existential. The climate crisis does.” 

The United States experienced 22 climate caused disasters that exceeded a record $1 billion each in damages last year. In a May 20th executive order, President Biden ordered government agencies to prepare for climate-related shocks across the economy as home prices, investments, banking, and other aspects of the global economy are now deemed at risk from the effects of climate change.  In another executive order, President Biden called for the preparation of a National Intelligence Estimate (NIE) on the threat climate change poses to U.S. security. NIEs are formal, classified assessments of major security questions, incorporating intelligence gathering from eighteen agencies. If the NIE concludes that climate change presents a grave security risk, vast agency resources could be mobilized.

That’s why critical investments, the President proposed in the American Jobs Plan, will support and create American jobs in the clean energy sector, help slash climate pollution, prepare our communities for rising seas, droughts, and storms, and protect our nation’s public lands. 

“As veterans, we are all too aware of how climate change continues to make the world more unsafe. It is a clear and present danger, and we need to act now. Safeguarding our nation from the economic, health, and security threats caused by the climate crisis is an opportunity to lead the world and stimulate our economy,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, former Maine State lawmaker, former Marine, and President of Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA). “President Biden’s Climate Summit at the White House was a major step, which brought leaders from around the globe to publicly recognize the existential threat to their security and prosperity, vowing to work together. At home we must take action and pass the American Jobs Plan to protect our national security.”

Following a year of record wildfires and hurricanes, NOAA has predicted an above average hurricane season, and the South West is in the thralls of a historic 21 year drought. Huge agriculture industry operations are depleting the soil, and have created Dust Bowl conditions. The Colorado River basin is in danger of drying up. In California, the snow melt has been declining yearly, while the agriculture and the oil industry continue to place more pressures on the water table, even though the state is gripped in the drought. California, Arizona and New Mexico already have hand blazes this year, and the fire season hasn’t started. Warming conditions have made fires possible year-round in some areas. Last year 10.3 million acres burned. 

Communities across the Midwest have been severely impacted by flooding amplified by the climate crisis, which claimed lives and livelihoods throughout the state, costing $6.2 billion in damages. According to a study published in May, roughly $8.1 billion of losses suffered in New Jersey, New York, and Connecticut from Hurricane Sandy can be attributed to sea-level rise caused by carbon dioxide emissions. No region has been spared from the devastation of climate change.

“Last year, the drought gave us the worst fire season on record, and the Colorado River’s flow is abysmal. It’s affecting the lives of millions of Americans who live in communities downstream and across the border into Mexico,” said Steve Child, Pitkin County, Colorado County Commissioner,Army Specialist 5 (Rt.). “We already have climate refugees, who have come to Colorado to escape worse conditions, even though the situation here is very grim too. As the climate crisis worsens, the world’s collective capacity to respond to climate disasters will be challenged, which threatens our national security.” 

As the Arctic ice melts, competition for resources and influence in the region increases. In the Pacific, islands are disappearing with sea level rise, and extreme storms have put whole communities at risk. Increasing temperatures and more frequent and extreme weather events in Africa and Central America threaten millions with drought, hunger and displacement. As families are forced to risk everything in search of safety and security, mass migration leaves them vulnerable to exploitation and radicalization—which undermines stability.

We cannot afford to ignore any of these issues.

“Climate change induced extreme weather has clearly shown us the national security weaknesses that are involved if we continue to use fossil fuels as our sole energy source. Our dependency on oil and gas fuels greenhouse gasses, which only makes our situation more dire,” said Paul L. Evans, Oregon State Representative Major, USAF Major (Ret.), EOPA Leadership Council Co-Chair. “We are the greatest nation on earth, with the intellectual and natural resources to change outcomes faster and more efficiently than other countries. We should enact the American Jobs Plan to help transition to a clean energy economy that will guard against unnecessary national security threats.”

Human caused climate change makes the atmosphere and water heat up which causes glaciers to melt, sea levels to rise, and fuels larger more destructive storms, and heat waves. Communities of color and low income communities are more likely located in areas most susceptible to heat waves, flooding and other extreme weather events. They are often hit first and worse by climate change and face increased health burdens from pollution compared to the overall population. 

Heat waves are the unspoken killer—as they are the leading cause of weather-related deaths in the United States. The Chicago high-humidity heat wave in 1995 killed 739 people in a week. Stalled jet stream loops in the atmosphere have led to two “mega heat waves.” One in Europe killed 70,000 people in 2003. Then seven years later a heat wave killed 56,000 in Russia, and devastated the country’s wheat crop. So, they stopped exporting, which set the stage for the Arab Spring food riots and uprisings of 2011.

“Drought, famine and heat destroyed the lives and livelihoods of thousands, and helped contribute to the Arab Spring. In large measure, people are fleeing Central America for refuge and opportunity in the United States because of drought conditions, and the terror those who profit from it inflict.  We also need to acknowledge that thousands of Californians have been forced to relocate because their homes and livelihoods were destroyed by a never ending fire-season. All too often, this forced migration hits those who can least afford it,” said Jay Chen, President of the Board of Trustees for Mt. San Antonio Community College, Navy Lieutenant Commander, and former President of the Hacienda-La Puente School Board. “The climate crisis is a national security threat to our country.  We need the political courage to recognize and address this meaningfully, for the security and safety of every American. We must always put the safety of our people before the profits of any industry.”

Last year’s apocalyptic Californian fires were coupled within heat waves forcing the electricity to fail and utilities to institute rolling blackouts that affected 800,000 customers. This year officials have already warned it could happen again. In February, a polar vortex caused havoc, death and destruction to Texas as their electric grid was paralyzed and went off-line. The storm disproportionally imperiled communities of color and killed 58 people from Texas to Ohio. 

In the last decade, storms wreaking havoc along the Gulf Coast have shut down electricity and fuel production at refineries in the Gulf of Mexico. Hurricane Katrina also caused at least ten oil spills, which released the same quantity of oil as some of the worst oil spills in U.S. history.

“I represent an agricultural community that has been laid bare when hurricanes, and extreme storms hit. We have 9.7 million pigs that produce 10 billion gallons of manure annually. With Florence those lagoons released pig waste into the environment contaminating the land, and water, and jeopardized the health of thousands of residents. The economic losses have been estimated at $24 billion, and the human toll resulted in more than 40 deaths,” said Raymond Smith, North Carolina State Representative, Army Sergeant (Ret.) “Around the globe farming communities are on the frontlines of the climate crisis. When crops fail, so does our national security.” 

Just last year, Hurricane Laura shutdown refineries and, according to PowerOutage.Us., more than 900,000 customers went without power in Louisiana, Texas and Arkansas. In Texas, the Port Arthur Refinery leaked more than 200 pounds of volatile cancer-causing organic compounds, and then emitted 100,000 pounds of those and other pollutants during its shutdown. The horrible truth is that emissions of this size normally happen during refinery shutdowns.

Colonial Pipeline connects refiners on the Gulf Coast to the eastern and southern United States, moving around 2.5 million barrels per day. The recent cyberattack on Colonial disrupted daily life for millions, as gas stations ran out of fuel. The attack highlighted how dependent we are on this single distribution source. The pipeline’s record shows it is a national security threat, as it has shut down 30 times in the last two decades. Hurricanes were responsible for eight of the shut downs that contributed to toxic pollution, and gasoline price rises. The pipeline, majority owned by Koch Industries, provides the East Coast with 45 percent of its fuel, and also services some of the country’s largest airports.

”While the cyberattack garnered headlines, in Virginia we’re used to sudden gasoline price hikes every time a hurricane happens or Colonial Pipeline has technical issues. This major fossil fuel artery has been shut down 30 times in twenty years. It’s clearly a national security threat, along with the grid. We must build a more resilient grid that has many renewable energy sources to power it,” said Mike Turner, Ashburn District Supervisor, Virginia, USAF Colonel (Ret.), “An electric system that draws power from multiple clean energy sources can bounce back more readily from a breakdown and guard against sudden price spikes.” 

The American Jobs Plan (APJ) funds a new modernized national grid that would be more resilient and not dependent on single sources for electricity. The APJ has a $174 billion investment targeted to help fund a transition from fossil fuel-dependent cars to electric vehicles, which would directly lower the risk of gas shortages in the future.

Already more than 30 utilities, supplying power to two-thirds of all US consumers, have committed to decarbonization goals that involve more use of renewable electricity, to help reduce the impacts of climate change. This action followed National Grid US’s announcement of its plans to achieve net-zero emissions by 2050.

Last December, UN Secretary-General António Guterres urged the nations of the world to declare a climate emergency. So far, 38 have done so. The United States is not one of them. In January, a team of 19 climate scientists published a paper, Underestimating the Challenges of Avoiding a Ghastly Future, that said, “The scale of the threats to the biosphere and all its life forms—including humanity—is in fact so great that it is difficult to grasp for even well-informed experts.”  

We have to act.

Elected Officials to Protect America (EOPA) is a national organization that builds support with elected officials for climate action across the nation. Our national initiatives are led by veterans who are lawmakers. We educate through value-based storytelling, training lawmakers, and mobilizing elected officials to inspire strong environmental leadership.

June 14, 2021


Contact: Ramona du Houx,
Communications Director
Elected Officials to Protect America
Cell: 207.319.4727