Pew Forum on climate, energy and national security

09/01/09 Mark Anderson
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The nonprofit Pew Charitable Trusts were formed by the heirs of the Sun Oil Company in 1948. The goal of the Pew Trusts is to improve public policy, inform the public, and stimulate civic life through analytic research. The trusts formed the Pew Research Council in 2004 and this group sponsored a town hall type forum, at the USF campus yesterday to discuss the intersection of 3 issues, National Security, Energy Policy, and Climate Change. The forum had 200 people in attendance.

The forum was moderated by former U.S. Senator Bob Graham of Florida, and the panel was comprised of 3 speakers, Dr. Tom Crisman of USF, Retired Vice Admiral Denis McGinn of the U.S. Navy, and Retired U.S. Senator John Warner of Virginia, former Secretary of the Navy, Chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and co-sponsor of the Climate Security Act, with then Senator Hillary Clinton as co sponsor.

Dr. Crisman spoke of how climate change is manifested in global warming, and in unpredictable changes in precipitation, particularly in the coastal areas of the globe, where 60% of the world lives. He noted that these changes create social disruptions through food and water shortages, flooding and increased hurricane activity, and that this social instability can lead directly to national security problems.

Admiral McGinn represents the Military Advisory Board for the CNA, or Center for Naval Analyses. This advisory board is a group of 12 retired 3 and 4 star senior officers from all four military branches. He warned the group that from a military perspective, potential threats need to be addressed proactively, and in this case anticipating the disruptions caused by climate change and energy policy is crucial:

Admiral McGinn and the CNA concluded that climate change, energy policy, and national security are a related set of global challenges, and in particular, that climate change and energy policy act as threat multipliers for our national security. He noted that water, food and energy supply interruptions can cause cross border migrations on a mass scale, triggering political conflict that may lead to serious security problems.

He further warned that our continuing and deepening dependence on imported oil creates a separate national security threat, through our relentless need to secure oil in regions of the world that are not aligned with the best interests of the U.S.

None of the speakers claimed to have the answers, their approach is that solving climate and energy problems will take many years, and will have to be a united, global effort. They emphasized that for government to focus on these issues, the public must demand it, and that was one of the principal purposes of the forum, educate citizens on the issues, and encourage them to get involved. Former Senator Warner noted that although these issues are complex and difficult to solve, the U.S. must be proactive and take a global leadership role in crafting solutions:

The Pew Research group is taking this same forum on the road to another 8 states in 2009.

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