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Patriotism and climate change


July 3, 2014

With the arrival of Independence Day, veterans like us often reflect on what patriotism means in terms of the responsibilities we American citizens have. One responsibility we all have is environmental stewardship.

As we celebrate our nation’s independence, the U.S. military remains ready to serve and protect. In order to maintain a strong defense, our military needs safe, secure, reliable, and affordable energy. That’s why the military is taking steps to strengthen our defense by using cleaner energy, increasing the use of renewable energy and leading the way in clean energy technology. As our military leads the way, we encourage our elected officials to follow suit and support cleaner, more reliable energy.

The U.S. military also knows that climate change poses a very real threat to our national security. The Center for Naval Analyses Military Advisory Board sounded an alarm in 2007 about the national security threats posed by global warming. In an updated report released in May of this year, “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change,” these retired military leaders reiterated their previous concerns and found that in many cases the risks previously identified are advancing noticeably faster than expected.

These risks “such as prolonged drought and flooding — and resulting food shortages, desertification, population dislocation and mass migration, and sea level rise — are posing security challenges to these regions’ governments. We see these trends growing and accelerating.” Their conclusion was that the accelerating rate of climate change poses a real risk to national security and acts as a catalyst for global conflict.

Climate change, however, is as much an opportunity for cooperation and innovation as it is for increased conflict. There are many opportunities to mitigate climate change and strengthen our national security at the same time. For example, the Department of Defense has enacted a number of initiatives aimed at increasing energy efficiency, deploying more sources of renewable energy, and assuming a leadership role in clean energy technology innovation. A recent Pew report, “Power Surge,” shows how the military is leveraging the private sector’s resources to deploy clean energy and efficiency technologies at military bases to improve energy security and save money. The U.S. military is estimated to have 384 megawatts of renewable energy on its bases and will reach 2.1 gigawatts in the next few years. Overall, this acceleration of clean energy will put DOD on track to meet its goal of deploying 3 gigawatts of renewable power by 2025, enough to power 750,000 homes.

We can and should apply the same can-do effort to our civilian energy systems.

It is time for Americans to rise to the challenge. It is our shared duty to keep our nation safe. Doing so requires us to recognize the very real threats posed by climate change. It requires us to take appropriate action to reduce greenhouse gas emissions such as carbon, and to generate clean, domestic, affordable, and safe energy here at home. We can join forces to support the first-ever proposed limits on carbon pollution that contributes to climate change. The solutions are attainable, but they require us to put politics aside and work together. As Montana veterans, we understand the spirit of Americans rising to meet a national challenge and believe our strength lies in meeting the challenge of climate change with integrity, ingenuity, and courage.

So join us on this Independence Day, reflect on what patriotism means, take steps to reduce your carbon pollution, and support efforts to generate clean, domestic, affordable, and safe energy for these United States of America.

• Michael Lee, U.S. Navy, 3rd Class PO, 1969 Vietnam tour on a tug boat, Helena

• Bob Raney, first lieutenant, U S Army, Vietnam veteran, Livingston

• Mike Jarnevic, sergeant major, U. S. Army Reserve with 38 years of service, Milltown

• Lex Blood, U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, 1951-1955, active duty 1953-1955, served in Korea for one year, Kalispell

• John Wolverton, Sergeant, Montana Army National Guard, 2005 Operation Iraqi Freedom III veteran, Missoula

• John Grove, Alaska, U.S. Army corporal, 4th Infantry Regiment, 1953, Stevensville

• Mary E. Owens, CDR, NC, USN (Ret), 22 years on active duty, Lolo.

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