Obama: Climate Change Is a ‘Threat Multiplier’

‘Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict’

"Cadets, like you, I reject pessimism.  We know what we as Americans can achieve when we set ourselves to great endeavors.  We are, by nature, optimists -- but we’re not blind optimists.  We know that wishful thinking in the face of all evidence to the contrary would set us on a course for disaster.  If we are to meet this threat of climate change, we must be realists.  We have to readjust the sails.
 
That’s why confronting climate change is now a key pillar of American global leadership.  When I meet with leaders around the world, it’s often at the top of our agenda -- a core element of our diplomacy.  And you are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us.  It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term.  So let me be specific on how your generation will have to lead the way to both prepare ourselves and how to prevent the worst effects in the future.   

Around the world, climate change increases the risk of instability and conflict.  Rising seas are already swallowing low-lying lands, from Bangladesh to Pacific islands, forcing people from their homes.  Caribbean islands and Central American coasts are vulnerable, as well.  Globally, we could see a rise in climate change refugees.  And I guarantee you the Coast Guard will have to respond.  Elsewhere, more intense droughts will exacerbate shortages of water and food, increase competition for resources, and create the potential for mass migrations and new tensions.  All of which is why the Pentagon calls climate change a “threat multiplier.” 

Understand, climate change did not cause the conflicts we see around the world.  Yet what we also know is that severe drought helped to create the instability in Nigeria that was exploited by the terrorist group Boko Haram.  It’s now believed that drought and crop failures and high food prices helped fuel the early unrest in Syria, which descended into civil war in the heart of the Middle East.  So, increasingly, our military and our combatant commands, our services -- including the Coast Guard -- will need to factor climate change into plans and operations, because you need to be ready.

Around the world, climate change will mean more extreme storms.  No single weather event can be blamed solely on climate change.  But Typhoon Haiyan in the Philippines gave us a possible glimpse of things to come -- one of the worst cyclones ever recorded; thousands killed, many more displaced, billions of dollars in damage, and a massive international relief effort that included the United States military and its Coast Guard."

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