Trump’s Defense secretary calls climate change a national security risk

Trump’s Defense secretary calls climate change a national security risk
© Greg Nash

President Trump’s Defense secretary, James Mattis, believes climate change is a national security threat, according to congressional testimony highlighted by ProPublica on Tuesday. 

According to a report, Mattis told the Senate Armed Services Committee that he believes in climate change and recognizes it as a threat. The statement came in unpublished written testimony associated with Mattis’s confirmation hearing. 

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis said in answers to written questions submitted to him by Democratic members of the committee.

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He said the military needs to consider the impact that climate change-related outcomes — such as open water in the Arctic and drought in contentious areas of the world — have on military operations. 

“It is appropriate for the Combatant Commands to incorporate drivers of instability that impact the security environment in their areas into their planning,” he wrote. 

The statement puts Mattis’s Defense Department in line with that of the Obama administration. Former President Obama and his top officials often stressed the impact of climate change on international relations and military issues during the course of his presidency. 

But it comes as the Trump administration moves to sideline climate change, a key issue facing the United States. The White House is expected to propose budget cuts this week to several federal climate-related programs, and it could pull back in the U.S.'s international climate change work as well.