The House Committee on Government Oversight held the first in a series of hearings on climate change, with former Democratic Secretary of State John Kerry and Republican former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel both testifying that climate change presents “threat multiplying” security risks, and that intelligence and national security leaders of the last four Administrations (including President Trump’s current Director of National Intelligence and Secretary of Defense) have all been in agreement on this key point. The hearing seemed designed to stress that the security risks posed by climate have not been a partisan issue, but the Republicans on the Committee repeatedly questioned the science of climate change and preferred to attack the Green New Deal as what they considered to be the real threat. The Republicans were openly hostile to the notion of combatting climate change, and stuck to their guns. CNN described some of the key exchanges:
- “Rep. Thomas Massie, a Kentucky Republican, said it was appropriate that someone ‘with a pseudo-science degree is pushing pseudo-science in front of our committee today.’ Kerry has a political science degree from Yale.”
- “Rep. Mark Green, a Tennessee Republican, urged that lawmakers ‘look at all the climate theories with a critical eye’ and in the meantime argued that any Pentagon spending on climate preparedness is a waste of money.”
- In another exchange, Rep. Massie “kept asking Kerry about levels of carbon dioxide being far higher millions of years ago, suggesting concerns about their rise now are overblown” to which Kerry responded, “[b]ut there weren’t human beings — it was a different world, folks.”
- “Republican Rep. Carol Miller of West Virginia emphasized that while she cared about climate change as a mother and grandmother, she saw the energy industry as a crucial employer in her district and that ‘quality of life directly correlates with access to affordable energy.'”
Secretary Hagel argued that climate change is having real impacts on military readiness — “[s]eventeen F-22 fighter aircraft are ‘out of the lineup’ because of hurricane damage at Tyndell Air Force Base in Florida.” and at Fort Bragg in North Carolina, “they can’t train, they’ve got to rebuild, they’ve got to shift their people and their structures and their planning. You could go on and on.” And Rep. Ocasio-Cortez questioned the witnesses with laser precision to establish key facts — that climate change is causing destruction to our military bases, eroding the health of our citizens and particularly our military force, exacerbating global disease outbreaks, increasing migration patterns in Europe and the Pacific and the Middle East, and fueling social unrest in many parts of the world. She also defended the government’s support for the development of clean energy as no more “socialist” than the massive tax breaks and subsidies the government provides annually to the oil and gas industry.
Why This Matters: The hearing was a pitched partisan battle — and one that foreshadows the election in 2020. Republicans will claim that Democrats are trying to use the false threat of climate change and the socialist Green New Deal as way to deprive rural citizens of the cheap power and coal, oil and gas jobs that have sustained them for many years. That threat is what makes them feel “insecure.” Democrats on the other hand feel increasingly “insecure” because as a society we are not dealing with the existential threat that climate change already is now and will be for the foreseeable future. And because we are failing to take advantage of the opportunity it presents to create a clean energy economy that will provide prosperity for future generations. Shots fired.
To Go Deeper: In case you were not already worried enough about climate change as a national security threat, there’s this report, from Think Progress, that Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov today mocked President Trump’s plan to abandon the Paris Accord and his refusal to even take the matter seriously.