This month's issue of National Defense covers a hot topic--global warming and its relation to our security.
Of great relevance to this debate is a Center for Naval Analysis study that was directed last year by former deputy undersecretary of defense Sherri Goodman. I was a member of the Military Advisory Board for that study, which was ably led by retired Gen. Gordon Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff.
The advisory board reviewed the literature and received presentations from a number of scientists. The group also evaluated numerous papers and studies on the science of global warming. Realizing the controversial nature of the scientific debate, and recognizing that none of the panel's members were climate scientists, we decided to accept the fact of global warming and to investigate the effects accompanying this phenomenon. Another goal was to determine how these effects could drive human conditions that would result in situations requiring a military response. Thus the title of the study: National Security and the Threat of Climate Change.
The study touched on one finding that bears some additional work, part of which is now underway in a CNA follow-on study: Using DOD Buying Power to Develop Smart Energy Solutions and Reduce Climate Threats. The original report found that "climate change, national security and energy dependence are a related set of global challenges." There are three intersecting sets of interests. The military is interested in more efficient and renewable forms of energy on the battlefield. Senior military leaders such as Marine Maj. Gen. Richard C. Zilmer is on record as favoring renewable energy sources, and Marine Gen. James N. Mattis famously has said, "release me from the tether of fuel."
Those worried about global warming and the role of carbon call for more renewable, less polluting sources of energy. Those concerned about the energy situation in general favor a combination of reduced demand and a basket of renewable and alternative energy sources. The point is that all three groups have a confluence of interests in the development of new energy sources: alternative forms that are renewable, and in many cases less polluting than the present forms of energy--for both fixed installations and transportation.
The rub is how to get from here to there. There is a role for the federal government to invest in technologies that would help change how we generate, distribute and use energy. This requires some lead time...