Center for Strategic Communication

On April 24, the President’s National Security Advisor, Tom Donilon, spoke at Columbia University’s launch of its new Center on Global Energy Policy. Donilon spoke at length on the national security aspects of energy and climate change. Below is a compilation of some of the highlights of his speech.

Why it Matters

“…  energy matters profoundly to U.S. national security and foreign policy.   It matters because the availability of reliable, affordable energy is essential to our economic strength at home, which is the foundation for our leadership in the world.  It matters because scarce resources have driven both commerce and conflict since time immemorial—and still do today.”

A National Security Issue – Energy and Climate

“We are in the midst of two changes that have presented themselves with great speed:  first, the substantial increase in the supply of available, affordable energy inside the United States – which is having important impacts on U.S. economic growth, energy security and geopolitics.

Second, a transformation in the global climate, driven by the world’s use of energy, that is presenting not just a transcendent challenge for the world but a present-day national security threat to the United States.”

A Transformational Moment

“Total U.S. oil consumption peaked in 2005 and has been declining since—a trend the President’s energy efficiency initiatives, including new fuel efficiency standards and investment in new energy sources, will only deepen.”

“…reduced energy imports do not mean the United States can or should disengage from the Middle East or the world.   Global energy markets are part of a deeply interdependent world economy.”

The National Security Impacts of Climate Change

“The national security impacts of climate change stem from the increasingly severe environmental impacts it is having on countries and people around the world.

Last year, the lower 48 U.S. states endured the warmest year on record.

At one point, two-thirds of the contiguous United States was in a state of drought, and almost 10 million acres of the West were charred from wildfires. And while no single weather event can be directly attributed to climate change, we know that climate change is fueling more frequent extreme weather events. Last year alone, we endured 11 weather-related disasters that inflicted a $1 billion or more in damages – including Hurricane Sandy.”

“Last year, Brazil experienced its worst drought in five decades; floods in Pakistan affected over five million people and damaged or destroyed over 460,000 homes; severe flooding across western Africa and the Sahel impacted three million people across fifteen countries–to give just a few examples among many.”

U.S. Policy

“He [President Obama] has also called for the creation of an Energy Security Trust that will support new research and development of cost-effective advanced transportation technologies, and he is leading domestic and international efforts to support the safe use of nuclear power.”

“To put ourselves on the strongest possible footing to prevent energy-related conflict, the United States must take the long overdue step of ratifying the Law of the Sea Treaty.  Every businessperson I speak with, every military leader, the Joint Chiefs of Staff and many, many others all come to the same conclusion:  ratifying the treaty will only strengthen America’s hand economically, diplomatically, and in terms of our security.”

“we are working with other nations to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions, prepare for the climate impacts it is too late to avoid, and bring about a global conversion to cleaner sources of energy.”

Energy and Climate are Critical Elements of U.S. National Security

“Energy and climate are critical elements of U.S. national security.

These issues have risen to the top of U.S. diplomatic agendas around the world: with Europeans considering their energy future; with China and other emerging powers addressing their growing needs; and with major energy consumers and producers, old and new.

How the United States manages these changes to our energy economy and to our climate will be an important measure of U.S. leadership for many years to come.”

To read the full speech, click here.



You can read more information about these issues in the following ASP Reports:

Climate Security Report

The Global Security Defense Index on Climate Change: Preliminary Results

FACT SHEET: Law of the Sea – separating fact from fiction

Climate Change, The Arab Spring and Food Prices

Climate Change we either Pay Now, or Pay Later