Hagel: 'Climate change presents security issues' for US

Defense Secretary Chuck HagelChuck HagelCreating a future for vets in DC Republicans back Clinton, but will she put them in Pentagon? There's still time for another third-party option MORE said “climate change presents security issues” for the U.S., but that the Pentagon may be in a good position to help convince policymakers and people to take it more seriously.

Speaking at the Washington Ideas Forum on Wednesday, Hagel said it is “critically important that we pay attention” to global warming.

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"From my perspective, within the portfolio that I have responsibility for — security of this country — climate change presents security issues for us,” he said.

Hagel referred to melting ice in the Arctic as an example of climate change that is already impacting Pentagon operations.

“As the oceans increase it will affect our bases, islands, it will affect security across the world,” Hagel said. “So we have to be prepared for that.”

Hagel said opponents argue that there are more pressing matters the government should be paying attention to, but it’s “part of my job” to not “lose sight of the strategic longer-term challenges that face our country either, and this [climate change] is one that we’ve got to be smart in how we handle it.”

When asked if people would be more responsive to climate science because the military is, Hagel agreed that the Pentagon is taken more seriously, and its work on climate change would likely be received well.

“There is more of an awareness and an edge put on an issue when it comes to the Pentagon,” Hagel said.  “Because the military and Pentagon has maybe — at least perceived by other people — a more serious look at the world.”