CNA Military Advisory Report:

Climate Change and U.S Global Supremacy

by Orpheus Reed | July 14, 2014 | Revolution Newspaper |


In May a new report, “National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change,” appeared. The report was written by a group of former high-ranking U.S. military officials called the CNA Corporation Military Advisory Board. The forward to the report is written by two former high-level U.S. government officials: Michael Chertoff, secretary of Homeland Security under George W. Bush and Barack Obama, and Leon Panetta, Secretary of Defense during Obama’s first term. According to Chertoff and Panetta, the 2007 CNA report, “National Security and the Threat of Climate Change,” on the same topic represented “the first time that such an elite body of military leaders expressed their concern over the security implications of climate change.”

The New York Times reported that Secretary of State John Kerry commented that the new CNA report would affect military and foreign policy. Kerry will reportedly deliver a major speech this summer on the subject of climate change and U.S. national security. (New York Times, May 13, 2014)

Thwaites Glacier in West Antarctic. Studies show that part of the huge West Antarctic ice sheet is starting a slow collapse in an unstoppable way. Photo: AP

So what is the deal with this report? Why is it that forces tied to the U.S. military—the vicious worldwide enforcers of this predatory system of imperialism—are now concerned about climate change?

The reality confronting humanity is that an environmental emergency stalks the planet. On many converging fronts, habitat and species are being endangered and destroyed in a building wave. Ecosystems are being compromised, poisoned, and in some cases transformed. Climate change is interacting with other environmental impacts and further driving a threat to the very eco-balances of the earth, even endangering the future of humanity.

Over the past decades scientists have sounded the alarm about climate change. They have studied the problem and documented the evidence for it over and over. This year, this overwhelming scientific consensus was documented even more convincingly and clearly by several reports, including the latest from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC). These reports have shown climate change is already transforming the planet, hitting hard at natural systems and humanity—and that if the current path continues, the future holds upheaval, conflict, and catastrophic changes from the changing climate. Faced with this, key forces in the U.S. ruling class are becoming alarmed. There is a growing sense among some of these powerful forces that the U.S. must more fully confront this and respond if it is to maintain its position of global supremacy.

But are they doing so from the viewpoint of moving heaven and earth to stop fossil fuel energy production and other ways of economic functioning of the capitalist system that are driving climate change? Are they concerned with the protection of world ecosystems and the world’s people, especially the poor and oppressed whose lives lie in the path of intensifying hurricanes, drought, flooding, and sea level rise? Absolutely and completely not!

The Threat to U.S. Power and the Real Interests of Humanity

Instead, these ruling class forces are arguing that the U.S.—and in particular, its military—must fully confront and move quickly to position itself to best preserve its global dominance in the face of major transformations of the earth’s climate and all the dangers and upheaval this will cause. The CNA report’s executive summary states, “The projected impacts of climate change—heat waves, intense rainfall, floods and droughts, rising sea levels, more acidic oceans and melting glaciers and sea ice—not only affect local communities but also, in the aggregate, challenge key elements of our National Power [including] political, military, economic, social, infrastructure, and information systems.”

The executive summary of this report says climate change “poses severe risks” to U.S. “national security” and that these risks are “as serious as any challenges we have faced.” It criticizes others in the ruling class who refuse to accept the reality of climate change, saying, “political posturing and budgetary woes” should not inhibit discussion over what is in reality a threat to U.S. power.

The report calls impacts of climate change “threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.” Further, this report considers the effects of climate change itself to be “catalysts for instability and conflict.” It argues the U.S. must take into account how this affects the entire world, not just certain regions.

These ex-generals and admirals are quite concerned that climate change could erode the ability of the U.S. military to field forces in the way it will need to to preserve U.S. global domination. They fear the threat of sea level rise to key U.S. military and particularly naval installations, such as the Norfolk, Virginia, naval base—the world’s largest naval station.

The capitalist system is melting the ice in the Arctic through its burning of fossil fuels and other destructive practices. The Arctic is a vast, rich ecosystem whose oceans sustain major sections of sea life that are important to life on the planet. The preservation of ice at both the North and South Poles is key to maintaining world climate. The accelerating melting of this ice guarantees sea level rise over the next century that threatens coastlines where hundreds of millions live. Are the ex-military leaders behind the CNA report raising an urgent call that the world must act to stop this destruction immediately? Again, absolutely not. Instead, they argue that with the opening up of the Arctic from the melting of ice caused by global warming, nations and corporations will be increasingly anxious to exploit this. So they urge military and legal changes so that the U.S. will be better able to position itself to “resolve” disputes—in other words, strengthen the ability to project U.S. military power into this region.

Think about it. The world’s people face massive drought, killing poverty from decline of crop production, threats to the cities and lands where they live from flooding and sea level rise, even worse and more wrenching resource wars, conflicts and massive displacement of whole peoples, and possibly a threat to human civilization itself from environmental destruction. But faced with all the horror the environmental emergency will bring, these top level military figures call for preparing the U.S. power structure to do everything possible to preserve the very system that is responsible for strangling the life out of earth’s living systems and exploiting world humanity in the first place!

Of course, nowhere in their report is it mentioned that the U.S. is the largest contributor in world history to the build-up of greenhouse gases warming the planet. Or that the U.S. military itself is the largest institutional consumer of oil on the planet. All of this is a very sharp indictment of this capitalist-imperialist system and a further demonstration that the rulers of this system are completely unable to take care of the earth or its people. The U.S. “national security” that these generals and admirals consider so precious has nothing to do with—and, in fact, is completely opposed to—the interests and security of world humanity and nature.

The situation cries out for urgently transforming the energy foundation of the planet, and massively bringing forward green sustainable energy—and doing so on the basis of moving toward ending all exploitation and oppression in the interest of humanity. The capitalist-imperialist system cannot do this—and it cannot be allowed to continue on its path to the destruction of much of living earth and its people.

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