When the U.S. military calls climate change a “threat multiplier” and “a serious threat to national security,” it makes anyone stand up and pay attention. From direct land impacts and food and water shortages, to the displacement of millions of people, climate change is not taken lightly by our armed forces.
Earlier this week, two military experts, Lt. Gen. Ken Eickmann (USAF, Ret.) and British Rear Admiral Neil Morisetti (Royal Navy, Ret.), testified at a Texas House International Trade & Intergovernmental Affairs Committee Hearing and later at an event hosted by the Robert S. Strauss Center for International Security and Law and the British Consulate-General University at University of Texas' LBJ School. As a senior research fellow at the University of Texas at Austin's Energy Institute and Former UK Foreign Secretary Special Representative for Climate Change, Eickmann and Morisetti, respectively, bring a level of trust and confidence to this issue, disarming the politics, if just for a moment, and replacing it with pragmatic duty.
Eickmann and Morisetti’s message was loud and clear: We need to diversify our energy options and shift more toward a clean energy economy. The potential for Texas is boundless.
As we have highlighted before, the U.S. military has taken a commanding lead on climate action. By 2020, the U.S. Navy aims to be 40 percent powered by renewable energy and the Air Force fleet is already certified for alternative fuels. Our armed forces see how added tensions, such as drought or floods, in countries that aren’t able to handle this instability affect supply chains across the globe, creating conditions that enable terrorism and unrest. As the experts clarified at this week’s events, the reality of a globalized world means climate change is a “threat multiplier,” impacting all of our connected systems, including food, water, trade, and security.
As a solution, Lt. Gen. Eickmann pinpointed Austin’s own Pecan Street Inc., which manages the nation’s largest residential energy research network, calling it the "community of the future." Eickmann cited Pecan Street's lessons in microgrid functionality and highlighted how, just like Pecan Street’s home base Mueller neighborhood, a military base is a community. The lessons from Pecan Street are applicable to, say, Fort Bliss or Fort Hood. If 21st century challenges require 21st century solutions, then the military can certainly see what the smart grid is doing for American energy and apply it to bases around the world. And Eickmann confirmed: “the [Department of Defense] is watching, the whole world is watching" what is being accomplished right here in Austin.
Compared to others here in Texas and elsewhere, it is a relief to know that those who have sworn to keep us safe aren’t playing partisan games with science. Instead, they are realistic and progressive in combating one of the most serious challenges of our time. As the Texas Legislative Session continues, two bills, both sponsored by Rep. Rafael Anchia (D-Dallas), have arisen that would set Texas on a course toward greater resiliency and risk management.
- House Bill 2078 creates a global climate change commission charged with designing a multi-regional, multi-state, and multi-lateral collaborative approach to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, protect public health, and spur public and private investment in clean energy. In addition, the Commission will assess the impact of global climate change on key issues of national security and develop a portfolio of feasible and affordable policy options to reduce the vulnerability of Texas to the predictable effects of climate change.
- House Bill 2080 authorizes the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to work with other state agencies to develop a compliance plan for the Environmental Protection Agency’s proposed Clean Power Plan, which would set the first-ever limits on carbon emissions from existing coal plants. Further, the bill would leverage strategies identified by the No Regrets Report (Texas' greenhouse gas reduction strategy), develop emission reduction measures, and present and implement a plan for achieving reductions in carbon and greenhouse gas emissions from sources by 2030.
Taking the lead from our military experts, it’s time Texas steps up and develops a strong plan of action to minimize climate risk, starting with EPA’s Clean Power Plan. A diverse energy portfolio that relies on more West Texas wind, harnesses Texas’ solar energy potential, takes advantage of the state’s abundant natural gas supply, and uses electricity more efficiently is not only good for Texas’ clean energy economy, but also our national security.