Bucking Pentagon and intel agencies, Trump's security strategy omits climate change from list of major threats

Going against scientific findings as well as the advice of his own military and intelligence agencies, President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled a national security strategy that omits global climate change as a threat to U.S. interests. 

Trump's security doctrine is in stark contrast to the Obama administration's strategy, which in 2015 elevated climate change to a top "strategic risk" to the U.S., along with a "catastrophic attack on the U.S. homeland or critical infrastructure" and other potential developments. Going against scientific findings as well as the advice of his own military and intelligence agencies, President Donald Trump on Monday unveiled a national security strategy that omits global climate change as a threat to U.S. interests. 

Whereas former president Barack Obama's national security strategy contained 19 instances of the term "climate change," Trump's has zero, although there are 4 uses of the word "climate." 

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President Trump on climate change
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President Trump on climate change
U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement, in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque TPX IMAGES OF THE DAY
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: White House Chief of Staff Reince Priebus, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Scott Pruitt, and Vice President Mike Pence clap as President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
U.S. President Donald Trump refers to amounts of temperature change as he announces his decision that the United States will withdraw from the landmark Paris Climate Agreement in the Rose Garden of the White House in Washington, U.S., June 1, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: White House chief strategist Stephen Bannon walks out after President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump points as he walks back to the Oval Office after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump speaks about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
WASHINGTON, DC - JUNE 1: President Donald Trump points out after speaking about the US role in the Paris climate change accord in the Rose Garden at the White House in Washington, DC on Thursday, June 01, 2017. (Photo by Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post via Getty Images)
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Trump's national security strategy, which is a political document that does not have the force of law, comes less than a week after Trump signed into law a defense bill that explicitly recognizes that climate change is a security threat. 

This contrast offers a glimmer of hope for those who work on the intersection between climate change and security issues. 

“His own Department of Defense is taking the matter very seriously,” said Francesco Femia, co-founder and president of the Center for Climate and Security, in an interview. Femia said the intelligence community has agreed that climate change is a threat to the U.S. since the George W. Bush administration, so this isn't simply a case of Trump trying to erase an Obama White House's policy.

“It’s a really odd throwback,” he said. “It sends a signal that I think can make it more difficult for the military to do its job in adapting to these risks,” Femia said. 

Past reports have identified sea level rise, droughts, and Arctic sea ice melt as issues that the U.S. military already must already contend with, with growing impacts as the world continues to warm. 

“The Administration’s National Security Strategy won’t stop Arctic ice from melting. It will continue to melt at an increasing rate and our national security leaders know that we need to address it as we manage many other risks from climate change," said David Titley, director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University and a Rear Admiral in the Navy, in an email. 

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Areas threatened by rising sea level
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Areas threatened by rising sea level

10. North Carolina: 298,000 residents at risk

(Photo courtesy: Getty)

9. South Carolina: 374,000 residents at risk

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8. Texas: 405,000 residents at risk

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7. Massachusetts: 428,000 residents at risk

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6. Virginia: 476,000 residents at risk

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5. New Jersey: 827,000 residents at risk

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4. New York: 901,000 residents at risk

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3. California: 1 million residents at risk

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2. Louisiana: 1.29 million residents at risk

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1. Florida: 6.06 million residents at risk

(Photo courtesy: Getty)

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Interestingly, the Trump administration's security strategy contains both a reference to the need to continue reducing greenhouse gas emissions, which are the main cause of global warming, as well as phrasing which is typically used to refer to developing more fossil fuel resources, which would emit more greenhouse gases. 

"U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests," the document states, using strikingly similar language to the Energy Department, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), and White House when talking about bringing about a resurgence of the coal industry.

Trump's strategy also ignores the scientific studies which show that there is growing potential for climate change to undermine U.S. national security, and in fact this may already be occurring, such as in the case of the civil war in Syria. In addition, sea level rise is already increasing flooding woes at military facilities at home and abroad, particularly in the Norfolk, Virginia area, home to the largest naval base in the world.

The document also alludes to the potential for fossil fuels, such as coal, to alleviate poverty, which is a popular argument within the Trump administration, but one that ignores the major health risks associated with burning coal. 

"Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty," the document states. 

The administration has been seeking to boost U.S. fossil fuel exports. Last week, for example, EPA administrator Scott Pruitt was in Morocco, pushing for liquified natural gas deals (which is not the typical role of an EPA leader).

Some countries, notably India and China, are trying to move away from coal and into renewables, such as solar power, as quickly as possible. 

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Foods that could go extinct due to climate change
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Foods that could go extinct due to climate change

Avocados

There are many reasons why avocados are more expensive now than ever before, including a farmers' strike. But the biggest threats to avocados are rooted in environmental issues linked to climate change: hot weather and droughts have caused problems everywhere from California to Australia. Avocados are weather-sensitive and slow growing — making them especially susceptible to the effects of climate change. 

(Photo credit should read RONALDO SCHEMIDT/AFP/Getty Images)

Coffee

In September, a report from the nonprofit Climate Institute concluded that the area around the world fit for coffee production would decrease by 50% due to climate change. In addition to dealing with drought, climate change has made coffee crops more vulnerable to diseases like coffee rust, which have wiped out more than a billion dollars in crops. 

(Photo by Taylor Weidman/Bloomberg via Getty Images)

Beer

Warmer and more extreme weather is hurting hops production in the US, reports ClimateWatch Magazine. 

And droughts could mean less tasty drinks. Some brewers fear that a shortage of river water may force them to brew with groundwater — a change that the head brewer at Lagunitas said "would be like brewing with Alka-Seltzer," according to NPR. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Oysters

Right now, climate change is actually helping oysters, as they grow faster in warmer waters. However, warmer waters also make oysters more susceptible to oyster drills, reports Seeker, citing a recent study in Functional Ecology

Drills are snails that attack and eat oysters. They're already a multi-million dollar problem for the oyster industry that could get worse thanks to warming water temperatures.

(Photo via Getty Images)

Maple syrup

Climate change is already shifting maple syrup tapping season and impacting the quality of syrup, according to Climate Central. Southern producers fear that eventually, areas like Virginia won't get cold enough for maple syrup production, even during the chilliest time of the year. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

Chocolate

Indonesia and Ghana, which have historically had ideal climates for growing cocoa beans, are already seeing decreased yields of cocoa. Chocolate companies, like Mars, have hired meteorologists to study the impact of changing weather patterns and attempt to reduce damage. 

"If climate conditions in these growing areas begin to change over time, it may influence both the supply and quality available of an ingredient that we use in our products," Katie Johnson, a senior manager on the commercial applied research team, told Business Insider in September. "Anticipating what the climate will be like 10, 20, or even 100 years from now is difficult, though the better we can understand what the different climate scenarios and risks to our supply chain are, the more prepared we can be in the future."

(Photo by Charlotte Lake / Alamy)

Lobsters

If ocean waters increase more than five degrees, baby lobsters may not be able to survive, according to research by the University of Maine Darling Marine Center and Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences, the Guardian reported. 

The United Nations’ Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has said that the Gulf of Maine will reach that temperature by 2100. In other words, Maine's lobsters could go from a more than $330 million business to extinct in 84 years. 

(Photo via Getty Images)

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