Center for Strategic Communication

ASP’s Senior Fellow for Energy and Climate Andrew Holland was featured on National Journal’s Energy Expert Blog. Amy Harder, the blog’s moderator, posed the question:

Is continually linking global warming to extreme weather a helpful component to the overall debate, or not?

How, if at all, could the global warming debate be changed in order to produce more action? Is this effort all for naught as long as many Republicans deny the scientific consensus that humans’ consumption of fossil fuels is causing global warming? Should President Obama take more of a leadership role in changing this debate?

ASP’s Andrew Holland responded, arguing that the debate should focus on the effects that climate change is having on human societies. From the article:

A national security debate would focus more on the impacts of a changing climate on human societies and less on polar bears. Our military is planning for the threats of climate change. So should the rest of our government. Importantly, this does not simply mean that environmentalists should simply point to the military and say “look! They believe in climate change, so should you!” Instead, a true debate about national security would focus on risk management and uncertainties – something the military does well, and Congress does poorly.

A national security frame would weigh the projected costs of action on climate change against the costs of inaction – not against zero. But – it would also acknowledge that action on climate change does have costs, and it is our policymakers’ responsibility to prioritize it against other costs.

National security planners know that no policymaker can operate under 100% certainty. If you wait until you are sure that your enemy will attack, the game is up. In this respect, it is important that policymakers stop having a debate about the science: a debate which scientists are no longer having. When we are now approaching 97% certainty among scientific papers on climate, that should be enough to prompt pre-emptive action. Vice President Dick Cheney was using just this sort of national security thinking when he said: “If there’s a 1% chance that Pakistani scientists are helping al-Qaeda build or develop a nuclear weapon, we have to treat it as a certainty in terms of our response.” Whatever you think about the science, we are far beyond that threshold for action.

To read the full response, click here.