Canada should heed Pentagon’s climate change warnings: defence expert

The Pentagon report says that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that will amplify “climate aggravated flash points” around the world.  

US Air Force pararescueman scans Texas after Hurricane Ike in 2008 - USAF photo
U.S. Air Force pararescueman scans the ravaged Texas landscape for signs of life in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike in 2008 - USAF photo

A new U.S. Defence Department report, which sees climate change triggering a rise in extreme weather emergencies, terrorism, and global conflicts over food and water, are threats that Canada should also recognize, a Canadian defence expert said Wednesday.

“We’re going to have to get use to the type of crises that will be created when we see an increasing number of ‘New Orleans’ [style hurricane and extreme-weather events] happening,” said Professor Rob Huebert, a foreign and Arctic policy researcher with the University of Calgary.

The Pentagon report says that climate change is a “threat multiplier” that will amplify “climate aggravated flash points” around the world.  

"Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict," writes U.S. defence secretary Chuck Hagel. 

The U.S. report is a call to action to build a greater resiliency within the American military to the dangers of a warmer world.  

In Canada, the federal government would not comment on the climate change threat conclusions of the American report.

"While we do not comment on specific or potential threats, the Government of Canada is always vigilant in monitoring any threats to Canada or Canadian interests," wrote a Public Safety Canada spokesperson.

The Government Operations Centre does however keep has tabs on hundreds of environmental protests in recent years.  

A recent RCMP report also recognized the threat of eco-terrorism -- a "growing radicalized environmentalist faction within Canadian society who is opposed to Canada's energy sector."

Climate change should be viewed as a national security threat: expert

For years, Canadian defence experts have said Ottawa has got the national security threats of climate change mixed up.  Margaret Purdy is a former Associate Deputy Minister of Defence:

"Overall, there is no sense of urgency – and no national leadership," wrote Purdy in a 2009 academic paper.

"Federal security officials seem content to play around the edges and leave the heavy lifting and worrying about climate change to colleagues in the environment or natural resources ministries." 

"They point to a security agenda that is already crowded, preoccupied with here-and-now problems at home and abroad," she also wrote at the time.

US military command set up in response to 2012 hurricane - US Air Force photo

US military command set up in response to a 2012 hurricane - US Air Force photo 

Rob Huebert said there’s no evidence the rise of ISIS military extremists in Iraq is climate-related.  

But a recent study by the Centre for American Progress showed climate change ignites "stressors" to the underlying causes of revolutions.  It said food shortages were a part of the Arab Spring dynamic in Egypt, and recent internal conflicts in China were linked to a once-in-a-century wheat shortage.

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