Bankrupt Advocacy

The Partnership for Responsible Growth, which should be renamed the Partnership for No Growth, in one of its latest Wall Street Journal ads asserts that “The Pentagon Sees Climate Change As A Serious National Security Threat”. It then asks, “Shouldn’t You”?

The answer to that question is NO!

The Pentagon has a long history of using some public concerns as a way to protect its budget and justify larger ones. In the 1960s, for example, in the midst of the Cold War, there was an annual spike in reports of Russian submarine sightings off the east coast around the time that Congress was considering the Navy’s budget. DOD embracing the so called climate threat is simply a case of emulating the logic of the infamous bank robber of the 1930s and 40s, Willie Sutton. When asked why he robbed banks, Sutton answered, “That’s where the money is”. Today, the money in this Administration is related to climate change.

Since President Obama has made climate change one of his top priorities—climate change expenditures have grown from $7.4 billion to over $21 billion–it is no surprise that DOD would latch on to it as a rationale to protect its budget, which has not fared well in recent years.

DOD’s case as cited by the Partnership has been independently reviewed a number of times and found wanting. Last year, the George C. Marshall Institute issued a report Connecting Climate and National Security that concluded:

The evidence in support of the claim that climate change will undermine U.S. national security is, at best, ambiguous and, most probably, non-existent. Dire scenarios of refugees crossing borders because of floods or civil war erupting out of famine-induced crises make for stimulating discussion, but assessments of the underlying propositions prove the scenarios unfounded. … Actual experience suggests none of the intervening conditions (droughts, floods, storms, famine, or refugees) contribute significantly to intrastate or international conflict. Indeed, some scholarship even shows that rather than creating conflict, environmental issues result in cooperation among groups and states as they work to adapt to water shortages or famine”.

The fact that this group has latched onto such a shallow and discredited argument reveals just how weak its case is. Two of its arguments are that the current Syrian refugee crisis and sea level rise around Norfolk Virginia are the result of climate change. Even the EU climate advocates haven’t gone so far as to claim that its refugee crisis is caused by climate change instead of ISIS and civil war. For the Partnership to do so trivializes a humanitarian crisis.

At least the Partnership is grossly right in its statement about sea level rise off Norfolk’s coast. Unfortunately, it is dead wrong on implied causality.

There are two reasons why Norfolk faces a long-term sea level rise problem. About 35 million years ago, a large meteor hit the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay creating a crater that is 56 miles in diameter and 1000-4000 feet deep. That has been causing subsidence, which continues. In addition, sea level around the globe has been rising since the end of the last ice age, about 16,000 years ago. According to Carl Wunsch of MIT and one of the world’s leading oceanographers, sea level will continue to rise until the next ice age.

The Partnership ad ends by attacking fossil fuels, which will be with us for decades to come in spite of its agenda, and asking “how else do we combat climate change?

It could begin by accurately defining of the climate change issue. As more scientific evidence accumulates, it becomes ever more clear that the climate system is more complex than generally appreciated, that a number of forces cause it, and that CO2 is not the major cause. As long as groups like the Partnership inaccurately define the problem, they will continue to pursue false but costly solutions. Climate has always changed and always will. The challenges that it creates can best be addressed by technology, sensible land use policies, and honesty about what we know and don’t know.








Founder and president of Solutions Consulting which focuses on public policy issues, strategic planning, and strategic communications.

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