On Wednesday, President Joe Biden told U.S. Air Force personnel stationed in the United Kingdom that the greatest threat posed to U.S. national security comes not from any specific nation but from global warming.
“You know, when I went over in the Tank in the Pentagon, when I first was elected Vice President, with President Obama, the military sat us down to let us know what the greatest threats facing America were — the greatest physical threats,” Biden said to U.S. troops stationed at Royal Air Force Base Mildenhall. “And this is not a joke: You know what the Joint Chiefs told us the greatest threat facing America was? Global warming.”
“There’ll be significant population movements, fights over land, millions of people leaving places because they’re literally sinking below the sea in Indonesia; because of the fights over what is arable land anymore,” Biden said of his first meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff after assuming the office of vice president in 2009.
Biden said in order to confront that national security threat, “We must all commit to an ambitious climate action if we’re going to prevent the worst impacts of climate change, limiting global warning — warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius, and lead the global transition to clean energy technology.”
In January, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said climate change will factor into the overall national defense policy. He said the Pentagon will “take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments.”
The melting of Arctic ice is one particular area of concern Austin noted in January.
Russia, in particular, has expanded its activities in the Arctic in recent years, including reviving a Soviet-era Arctic weapons research facility and expanding its fleet of icebreaking ships, including a weaponized icebreaker, to patrol the increasingly accessible Arctic region.
In March of last year U.S. Air Force Gen. Terrence J. O’Shaughnessy, then-commander of the U.S. Northern Command (NORTHCOM) and the North American Aerospace Defense Command (NORAD), said, “The Arctic is no longer a fortress wall and the oceans are no longer protective moats – they are avenues of approach to the homeland.”
During his Wednesday remarks, Biden did not give specifics about the role the U.S. military would play in responding to the threat posed by climate change.
Biden issued his warning about climate change on the same day the Pentagon announced the completion of a new China-related task force, which described the security challenges posed by China as the “United States’ number one pacing threat.”
Speaking on the Pentagon’s China Task Force, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin said, “The efforts I am directing today will improve the department’s ability to revitalize our network of allies and partners, bolster deterrence, and accelerate the development of new operational concepts, emerging capabilities, future force posture and a modernized civilian and military workforce.”