Elected officials who are veterans say climate crisis is a national security threat and urge a National Climate Plan and Emergency Declaration

Over 100 lawmakers who are veterans and frontline leaders to attend White House Summit on the Climate Crisis, supporting urgent climate solutions and a Climate Emergency Declaration

Human-induced climate change is affecting the climate with extreme weather in every region across the globe.The Earth’s entire climate system has been altered with lifetime irreversible shifts, as climate change accelerates at an unprecedented rate, according to the United NationsIPCCreport. The document prompted the UN Secretary-General António Guterres to say it’s “a code red for humanity. The alarm bells are deafening, and the evidence is irrefutable . . . We must act decisively now, to keep 1.5 alive.”

The scientific threshold, of 1.5 degrees above pre-industrial levels of global heating, is the ceiling before we hit a point of no return. The report’s solution: “Strong, sustained reductions in emissions of carbon dioxide (CO2) and other greenhouse gases, could quickly make air quality better, and in 20 to 30 years global temperatures could stabilize.” But how do we make it happen?

Elected Officials to Protect America held a virtual press conference on September 14th, before their White House Summit, to highlight the climate emergency, why it is a national security threat and to offer climate policy solutions with veterans who are elected officials, and veterans who are deploying American-made clean energy. 

“The global climate crisis is one of the most serious national security threats our country faces. The instability brought by rising sea levels, catastrophic weather events, and the insecurity of resources like water and food will result in conflict and humanitarian issues that we need to seriously begin preparing for as a government and nation. This isn’t an issue for 100 years from now. Our leaders need to be prepared today, and that’s why we need a national plan,” said U.S. Representative Ruben Gallego (AZ), The Chair Intelligence and Special Operations Subcommittee, and Marine Corps Veteran.

AEOPA letter with over 300 lawmakers who support climate emergency action was released to show how much elected officials are calling out for substantial immediate action.

The Arctic is warming at more than twice the pace of the rest of the world. For several consecutive years, portions of the Arctic have shattered wildfire records due to climate change. An Arctic winter used to extinguish seasonal wildfires, but now some fires refuse to die. These “zombie fires” smolder under the snowpack throughout the winter and come back to life during a new fire season. According to NPR, this year an area twice the size of Austria has already burned, which has exposed the permafrost and the potential release of stored methane gases that would dramatically worsen the climate crisis.

As the Arctic ice melts, competition for resources and influence in the region increases. China and Russia are building icebreakers for exploration. In the Pacific islands are disappearing with sea level rise, coastal communities around the globe are at great risk. Increasing temperatures and more frequent and extreme weather events in Africa, the Middle East and Central America threaten millions with drought, hunger and displacement. As families are forced to leave in search of safety and security, mass migration makes them vulnerable to exploitation and radicalization—which undermines stability.

“Climate change is a threat multiplier, both for instability around the globe, and for increasing climate-fueled natural disasters here at home.  From rampant wildfires in the West, to flooding across the heartland, to repeatedly stronger hurricanes in the East, every American is affected by climate change.  And around the world, food and water insecurity is forcing millions to flee, from Central America northwards, and across Africa and the Middle East, leading to the greatest wave of migration in a generation,” said Sherri Goodman, Former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense (Environmental Security) Secretary General, International Military Council on Climate & Security  “We don’t have time to waste in building a more resilient society and accelerating the clean energy transition.  Unless America leads with innovation and by setting a global example, China will find strategic advantage in the clean energy future that will pace global competition for our future generations.”

“In the military we call climate change a threat multiplier because it is the spark that can lead to violent turbulence that has been smoldering under the surface. Military and national security leaders know that effects of climate change are intensifying and have already destabilized regions like sub-saharan Africa or parts of the Middle East,” said Jon Powers,former Federal Chief Sustainability Officer, Co-founder Veterans Energy Project, Co-Founder and President Clean Capital, and Army Veteran. “It is imperative that we act now to mitigate the problems by cutting carbon emission drastically, before we find ourselves reacting to conflicts spurred by the climate crisis.

The lack of water is a key driver of conflicts, especially in the Middle East and North Africa and is predicted to worsen as long as fossil fuels continue to fuel global warming. The Center for Naval Analyses’ report explains how water insecurity empowers violent extremist organizations and places stable governments at risk. They found that 70 to 80 percent of conflicts in rural areas stem from water disputes.

“When droughts worsen, farmers in the region are forced to find other ways to feed their families. Often they are pressured into joining a terrorist organization. I experienced this first hand in Iraq when my HUMVEE was hit by a roadside bomb planted by a former farmer,” said Alex Cornell du Houx, a former Maine state lawmaker, Marine combat veteran and President of the Elected Officials to Protect America. “Years later I  was in Afghanistan and at the battle for Farah the Taliban tried to take the city for its water access, due to a drought that put over 20,000 people in a nearby refugee camp. And they were not shy about it. While commencing the attack, they tweeted to the world that they were taking the city for its water. History is repeating. Afghanistan is once again in a catastrophic drought. More than 12 million Afghans or a third of the population are facing emergency levels of food insecurity. Tragically this disaster shows how water insecurity exacerbated by the climate crisis is a threat multiplier.”

In Afghanistan, food prices have spiked since the second drought in four years ruined some 40 percent of the wheat crop, according to the World Food Program. Drought has also affected the levels of groundwater that Afghan cities have been relying on for drinking. Kabul has been particularly vulnerable to water shortages. Millions of Afghans could soon face starvation. The country was one of 23 countries the United Nations identified ashunger hotspots, places where people don’t know when or where their next meal will come from.

“Climate change is an accelerant of instability, which undermines U.S. national security interests,” said Paul L. Evans, Oregon State Representative Major, USAF Major (Ret.), EOPA Leadership Council Co-Chair. “Any nation that suffers from extreme natural disasters has its national security threatened. We are the greatest nation on earth, with the intellectual and natural resources to change outcomes faster and more efficiently than other countries. We need a National Climate Plan that will transition us to a clean energy economy that will guard against unnecessary national security threats.”

The threat at home —

The United States experienced 22 climate caused disasters that exceeded a record $1 billion each in damages in 2020. A majority of Americans have made it clear that climate change is a concern and a priority.

Recent extreme weather events show a clear case for America to declare a National Climate Emergency as the national security threat has grown along with climate change. Tropical Storm Nicholas may dump two feet on Texas in the coming days.

“The military and government at all levels must collaborate and invest in resilience and mitigation as climate security threats become more common. The recent disasters make it plain that America can expect these trends to continue, and action is needed on bases and in communities to protect our national security.” said Vice Admiral Lee Gunn(Ret.) Former Inspector General of the Department of the Navy, member of the American Security Project. 

Just one climate change charged storm caused flash flooding withsubways underwater, vast power outages, homes and livelihoods destroyed and death.Hurricane Ida’s remnants created deadly havoc killing at least 49 people in Pennsylvania, New Jersey and New York, days after the system battered Louisiana leaving nearly a million people without power, and at least 12 people dead. Oil refineries and petrochemical plants flared, spuing pollution in Louisiana’s “chemical corridor” along the Mississippi River and at least36 Ida-related reports of environmental issues were reported. On Sept 4, theCoast Guard confirmed there is an oil spill in the Gulf caused by the aftermath of Ida.

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 caused at least ten oil spills. Last year, Hurricane Laura shutdown refineries toxic emissions are released in the atmosphere every time a refinery shutdown.

“Climate change continues to make the world more unsafe. It is a clear and present danger. More resources need to be deployed to areas in America that suffer the injustices of the climate crisis. My homeland, Puerto Rico, still hasn’t recovered from Hurricane Maria. 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 former New York Assistant Speaker Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, EOPA Leadership Council member, Army veteran. “We need a National Climate Emergency Plan.”

Communities already hardest hit by systemic racism and environmental injustice tend to be located in areas most susceptible to heat waves, flooding and other extreme weather events. These communities also face increased health burdens from pollution compared to the overall population. 

Decades of research shows hurricanes are expected to get more intense as a result of climate change. The physics is simple: as the atmosphere warms, it can hold more moisture — which means more fuel for rainfall in places like the Gulf Coast and the Eastern Seaboard. At the same time, more moisture is being pulled away from historically dry places like the West.

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. Dust storms could become a big threat, in the near future. 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. Warming conditions have made fires possible year-round in some areas. Research shows “fire weather” days in California will rise 40 percent by 2065. 

California’s wildfire season roared to life at the beginning of July and has continued to increase rapidly. As of August, 6,714 wildfires have burned more than 1.6 million acres this year, which is bigger than the Grand Canyon. About 10.1 million acres were burned in 2020 in the US, compared with 4.7 million acres in 2019, according to the National Interagency Fire Center.

Last year’s Californian fires were coupled within heat waves forcing the electricity to fail and utilities to institute rolling blackouts that affected 800,000 customers. 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. A Department of Energy study found that power outages cost the U.S. economy up to $70 billion annually.

At the EOPA White House Summit the need for urgent climate solutions was highlighted. Over 100 elected officials representing every state took part in the virtual event. 

EOPA worked with the Veterans Energy Project, the Truman National Security Project and the American Security Project in partnership with the White House for the summit. 

About Elected Officials to Protect America: We are a national network of current and former elected officials who care deeply about protecting our planet and people from the dangers of climate change. EOPA educates through value-based storytelling, trains lawmakers, and connects elected officials to inspire strong environmental policy. Veterans who are elected officials lead our national efforts.

September 14, 2021


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