As we enter the new year, there many reasons why national elected officials, including presidential hopefuls, should heed the concerns of the global community regarding climate change.
First, of course, is the accord coming from the Paris Climate Conference. The provisions of the Paris Agreement, described by many world leaders and news outlets as historic, may lay the foundation for limiting additional damage to the environment — and may offer island nations such as the Maldives an outside chance at survival.
Finally, the military, necessarily, is concerned about the impact of climate change on its mission, and the potential impact that climate will have on the ability to meet the mission. Retired U.S. Army Gen. Gordon R. Sullivan, a former Army chief of staff, has noted that "People are saying they want to be perfectly convinced about climate science projections. ... But speaking as a soldier, we never have 100 percent certainty. If you wait until you have 100 percent certainty, something bad is going to happen on the battlefield." As the climate has changed, there has been much effect in places like the Arctic. Economically, Canada has become the third largest exporter of diamonds in the world. Greenland's ice melt has greatly altered its economy in only a few years. Oil companies, which have long known about the dangers of fossil fuel use on the climate, seek new fortunes in the reserves in the Arctic, devoting millions of dollars to research and resources in the area.
Perhaps more importantly, Russia has become much more active in the region. For example, in March 2015, the Russians held a "massive military exercise" in the Arctic. The U.S., however, is woefully behind Russia's interests and activities in the region. It is imperative that the U.S. national leaders take climate change as seriously as the private sector and our global adversaries do.
Gibson is an associate professor of political science at Westminster College in Missouri and a National Security Network (NSN) fellow. The views expressed here are not necessarily the views of NSN.