This calendar year brought the United States its third hottest summer on record and Europe its hottest summer on record. And you can put aside hope that it was just a fun time. Last year was the sixth hottest year on record worldwide. The previous year, 2020, was the hottest on record.
It is not a coincidence; it’s a trend. Carbon dioxide, methane and other greenhouse gas emissions – generated en masse by the production and consumption of fossil fuels – have warmed our planet for generations, and these chickens have come home to roost .
Climate change is now our greatest national security crisis.
This summer, cities, farms and forests around the world have been baked by historic heat waves. July brought Europe a week-long heat wave that caused major droughts across the continent and killed thousands in its immediate wake. Today, the French national statistics institute estimates the number of additional deaths in this country alone at 11,000. In September, a brutal heat wave ravaged the United States with particularly devastating consequences in California, where people fell ill, power grids snapped and wildfires raged.
These are just two of the major global heat waves that have hit us this summer.
We have seen our planet bend. We cannot allow it to break.
I have spent decades working in disaster relief, including hurricane response in my home state of Louisiana. I know from experience that there is an urgent need to prepare for natural disasters. I have also spent years working in environmental advocacy and have seen our planet poisoned by unnatural forces that allow unexpected and deadly heat waves and hurricanes to occur with a only a few days notice.
Prior to all of this, I served over 37 years in the United States Army, where I retired as a Lieutenant General. In all my years serving this country, I have never seen our leaders sit back and wait for a crisis to catch us unawares. We trained, we prepared for all possible outcomes and, when we could, we took action to prevent crises before they happened. This is the kind of thinking and planning we need now.
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It’s time to think about climate and climate-related events while thinking about our national security, because that’s what’s at stake. This means:
- Create a Federal Department of Climate Security to oversee the government’s climate program, enforce climate standards and regulations, and lead international diplomatic efforts related to climate change;
- Cut a significant portion of the US government’s operating budget for a climate department and to advance the administration’s climate goals;
- Rebuild America’s infrastructure and prepare vulnerable states for storm and heat resistance before picking up the pieces;
- Re-engage in international diplomacy and shared global climate goals, even with geopolitical competitors, because the stakes are damned too high;
- Recognizing that climate is the cause of many things – poverty, food shortages, famine, deadly weather, political instability – that precede actual armed conflict.
It also means letting go of the things that we know are killing us.
We have all the evidence in the world that “natural” disasters, such as the heat waves that have ravaged Europe and the United States, are caused by unnatural forces – oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing, liquefaction and the export of gas. It’s time to move away from climate-killing industries and addictions and into green, renewable energy.
We can start this work now. The gas industry is looking to develop a dozen more foreign gas export terminals, each of which would require legal permission to emit millions of tonnes of methane and CO2 every year. More gas exported from the United States will fuel more killer heat waves around the world.
Our future hangs in the balance. Email President Biden and federal regulators now. Tell them we can’t afford more heat waves, hurricanes, emissions or terminals. Our national security is in danger. Act here.
on the climate crisis and possible solutions
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