Even skeptics should heed these climate warnings

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Robyn Blumner
September 8, 2009
To Global Warming Holdouts and Oil Drilling Enthusiasts:

OK, maybe you don’t care or believe that within a couple of generations, global warming’s effects on sea levels will swamp the world’s coastlines, displacing hundreds of millions of people. And maybe you don’t care or believe that already-dry regions will experience extended droughts, leaving millions more people without adequate food and water. Or that thousands of species will be wiped out. Or that the coral reefs are toast.

But what about America’s fighting forces? Do you support our troops? If so, you might want to get behind the push for alternative energy and a reduced carbon “bootprint” because our military says it’s essential for American security.

The people sounding these alarms have impressive insignia on their chests, and there is probably not a pair of Birkenstocks among them. From the Pentagon to the intelligence community, the word coming down is that our national security and war readiness are at risk if we don’t respond to the threats of global warming and energy dependence. So are you ready to listen, please?

Let’s first talk about the really short run, as in right now, as in our wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, where the “tether of fuel” is compromising our mission effectiveness. In “Powering America’s Defense: Energy and the Risks to National Security” (www.cna.org/documents/PoweringAmericasDefense.pdf), written by some of the military’s most respected retired generals and admirals, the case is made that energy efficiency and alternative energy systems are already essential to battlefield success.

As the May 2009 report describes, our fuel supply lines in modern war theaters are terrifically vulnerable, but you can’t run vehicles and generators at forward operating bases without a lot of fossil fuel. As a result, we defend miles-long fuel convoys with huge amounts of manpower and machinery. In Afghanistan especially, fuel logistics slow troop movements and limit deployment options.

Then there is the impact of our inefficient energy systems on our infantry forces when each soldier in Afghanistan must carry more than 26 pounds of batteries in his pack for a 72-hour mission.

What if those batteries were replaced with a small hybrid module that exploited wind, solar or hydro power resources? If you think that’s liberal drivel, just listen to retired Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn and former Republican Sen. John Warner of Virginia (a former secretary of the Navy), who are traveling the country to drive home the national security implications of energy. They say replacing the military’s use of heavy batteries and generators with renewable energy hybrids and converting military vehicles to hybrid technologies is essential to our future fighting capability.

On a recent newspaper visit, the pair agreed that more oil drilling will get us nowhere. They pointed out our nation’s frightening vulnerability: We consume 25 percent of the world’s oil production yet have less than 3 percent of the world’s supply, including what’s under pristine federal land in Alaska and what can likely be extracted a few miles off Florida’s currently lovely coastline.

“We cannot drill our way to a sustainable prosperity and security,” McGinn says.

Warner also has a message about global warming: “We’re running out of time.”

Global warming may seem like a long-term threat, but it isn’t. We have to address greenhouse gas emissions in the near term, or the planet’s inexorable warming will exacerbate fault lines around the world. The military is predicting that instability caused by coastal flooding, water and food scarcities, and the resulting mass human migration and weakened governments will directly impact U.S. security.

And McGinn wants Americans to know that a yellow “support our troops” ribbon on a big, gas-guzzling SUV is a “mixed message.” Being truly supportive, he says, is to be energy efficient, even in small ways, and to support leaders who seek to change the way we develop and use energy.

So, doubters, there you have it. The very people who you always claimed to be “for” are telling you that for the sake of America’s security you should forget about drilling, dump your SUV and join the fight for renewable energy. Any chance that you’re listening?

Robyn Blumner is a civil liberties and labor law expert who writes about individual freedom, trade, globalization and workers’ rights. She is a columnist for the St. Petersburg Times in St. Petersburg, Fla., and syndicated by Tribune Media Services. E-mail her at blumner@sptimes.com.

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