Sustainability: America’s Best Defense

Although a frightening report recently released by NASA stated that glacial melting in Antarctica has “reached the point of no return,” this doesn’t necessarily have to be the case for United States’ climate change policy.

A concerning section of the West Antarctica ice sheet began breaking apart. Scientists predict this melting to prove unstoppable, potentially destabilizing adjacent ice sheets and causing a sea level rise of ten or more feet in the future. Although scientists have warned of the disastrous effects of climate change for decades, this recent news reignited the conversation on global warming.

Soon following the grim news of the impending Artic melt, the CNA Corp, an advisory panel for the US Navy, released its report detailing the necessary adjustments required for the US Military to address the threat of climate change. The report claims that the US must update its war plans and improve its militaristic resilience given the possible cataclysmic effect of climate change on global tensions from the Arctic to Africa. America has enjoyed economic and militaristic dominance for much of its history. However, these gains have come at the cost of the US leading in greenhouse gas emissions. The US faces a plethora of potential threats unless it faces the environmental reality it helped create. And other nations have taken notice of this fact.

What is to be said of the environmental intentions of the world’s greatest superpower if they rejected to participate in the most influential international environmental treaty in history? Neglecting to lead, let alone participate, in the Kyoto Protocol permanently damaged America’s global image on climate change policy. And 16 years after the signing of Kyoto, the US has still failed to improve its stance on global warming. According to a survey by the Pew Research Global Attitudes Project, 56% of respondents felt that President Obama would “take steps on climate change” in 2009. In 2012, 61% said he has not delivered on those expectations.

Rather than pessimistically disregard climate change as unavoidable disaster, policymakers should take these challenges and turn them into opportunities. I recently had the privilege to attend a lecture by Colonel Mike Mykleby where he spoke about the need for sustainable US policies as outlined by A National Strategic Narrative. Written by Mykleby and Captain Wayne Porter, this strategy document argues for a movement from “containment to sustainment” in which sustainable solutions are necessary not only from an environmental perspective, but to ensure continued American prosperity, security, and economic development for future generations.

It seems the bad news about global warming has reached an unstoppable snowball effect. Such is the nature of climate change – all of the earth’s processes are infinitely and interdependently linked to one another. However, such is the nature of the world today, considering how globalization has connected economies, governments, and lives in ways never thought possible. Yes, climate change poses the greatest threat the United States has yet to face. But it also poses the chance for America to take the lead in the single area of international policy at which it has most failed, while taking steps to provide for its own, prosperous future.

 

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