Secretary of Defense, General James Mattis. Photo: ABC News

By Andrew Revkin
14 March 2017

(ProPublica) – [Update, 16 March 2017] Our story on March 13 concerning Secretary of Defense James Mattis’ views on the relationship between climate change and national security was based on excerpts from unpublished written exchanges between Mattis and several Democrats on the Senate Armed Services Committee following his Jan. 12 confirmation hearing. ProPublica has now obtained more comprehensive sets of these “Questions for the Record” and his answers.

While the exchanges mainly focus on climate change, fossil fuel and renewable energy and related security issues, which was the initial reporting focus, they include discussions of Mattis’ views on issues ranging from Iran’s nuclear weapons program to ISIS, Guantanamo and LGBT issues in the military. The merged documents are posted on DocumentCloud. Explore and let us know what excites, irks or confuses you, and share this package with others. Post comments or get in touch via suggestions@propublica.org.

Secretary of Defense James Mattis has asserted that climate change is real, and a threat to American interests abroad and the Pentagon’s assets everywhere, a position that appears at odds with the views of the president who appointed him and many in the administration in which he serves.

In unpublished written testimony provided to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Mattis said it was incumbent on the U.S. military to consider how changes like open-water routes in the thawing Arctic and drought in global trouble spots can pose challenges for troops and defense planners. He also stressed this is a real-time issue, not some distant what-if.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in written answers to questions posed after the public hearing by Democratic members of the committee. “It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning.”

Mattis has long espoused the position that the armed forces, for a host of reasons, need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy where it makes sense. He had also, as commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command in 2010, signed off on the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expected to confront over the next 25 years.

But Mattis’ written statements to the Senate committee are the first direct signal of his determination to recognize climate change as a member of the Trump administration charged with leading the country’s armed forces. [more]

Trump’s Defense Secretary Cites Climate Change as National Security Challenge

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