Kerry to warn of climate threats to national security in speech

Secretary of State John Kerry plans to give a major speech on the connection between climate change and national security this summer.

In an interview with The New York Times, Kerry said the speech would also be an opportunity to build political support for President Obama's climate agenda.

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“We’re going to try to lay out to people legitimate options for action that are not bank-breaking or negative," Kerry said.

A central part of that agenda are regulations to curb carbon emissions from new and existing coal-fired power plants.

Kerry spoke with the Times after the release Tuesday of a government-funded military research study, which found that the increasing rate of climate changes will serve as "catalysts for instability and conflict."

The report, published by the Center for Naval Analyses (CNA) Corp.'s Military Advisory Board, also states that the growing number of extreme weather events across the globe, brought on by climate change, will spark a demand for U.S. troops.

Kerry said that the report's findings, which were based on analyses by every U.S. military branch, numerous federal agencies and industry, will influence U.S. foreign policy.

“Tribes are killing each other over water today,” Kerry said. “Think of what happens if you have massive dislocation, or the drying up of the waters of the Nile, of the major rivers in China and India. The intelligence community takes it seriously, and it’s translated into action.”

The report goes on to recommend that the Department of Defense develop, fund and implement plants to adapt, placing higher emphasis on the projected impacts of climate change on Pentagon facilities, and associated infrastructure.

Tuesday's report built upon a 2007 study by the center's Military Advisory Board, which included retired three-star and four-star admirals and generals.

In this year's report, the military board states that, in many cases, the risks identified in the 2007 report are occurring faster than anticipated.

"We can’t discuss the future of national and international security without addressing climate change," said Chairman of the CNA military board Paul Kern, a retired Army general.

Future global conflicts will likely be centered around food shortages, limited water resources, and desertification, brought on by climate change, said retired Navy Vice Adm. Lee F. Gunn in a statement.

Gunn added that the climate impacts will escalate already existing tensions, creating new reasons for military intervention.

In the U.S., the challenges will be different, the report states, taking the form of flooded bases, strained responses to national disasters and infrastructure damage.

"But the cause is the same: unmitigated climate change," Gunn said.