'We need to act': Biden’s defense secretary explains why climate change is an 'existential' national security threat

'We need to act': Biden’s defense secretary explains why climate change is an 'existential' national security threat

During his four years in the White House, former President Donald Trump was an outspoken climate change denier — loudly voicing his unwavering support for fossil fuels over green energy. But President Joe Biden and his administration acknowledge climate change as a daunting reality, including Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III — who described climate change as a national security threat during a recent speech at the Leaders Summit on Climate.

Austin told attendees, "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 deserve to be called existential…. climate change is making the world more unsafe, and we need to act.'

Extreme weather-related events existed long before climate change, but climate change is making them more frequent and more severe — from wildfires in California and Australia to record flooding in Houston from Hurricane Harvey in 2017. And Austin, during his speech, warned, "From coast to coast and across the world, the climate crisis has caused substantial damage and put people in danger, making it more difficult for us to carry out our mission of defending the United States and our allies."

Some national security experts have emphasized that climate change is not only an environmental problem — it is also problematic from a national security standpoint. And Austin made that point during his speech, noting that Biden has asked the United States' intelligence agencies to address the security implications of climate change.

Austin explained, "We in the Department of Defense are committed to doing our part, from increasing the energy efficiency of our platforms and installations to deploying clean distributed generation and energy storage to electrifying our own vehicle fleets."

The Biden Administration's defense secretary also noted that the U.S. military can play an important role in addressing climate change, and he made it clear that he welcomes the input of military leaders in other countries.

"We also have a once-in-a-generation opportunity to build an entire economic sector and the global infrastructure for clean energy," Austin explained during his speech. "The truth is that our shared commitment will allow us to create a safer, more resilient, secure and sustainable future. None of us can tackle this problem alone. We share this planet, and shared threats demand shared solutions. I look forward to working with all of you on this vital mission."

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