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How Higher Ed Can Help Build a Safer America

By Sharon Chen
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Jon Powers, an Iraq Veteran who served as the Federal Chief Sustainability Officer and Special Advisor on Energy to the US Army in the Obama Administration, shares his insights about how climate change is one of the biggest security threats we face. Climate change poses a clear and immediate risk to national security, and in unstable regions of the world it is a threat multiplier, exacerbating existing problems. Clean energy innovation in the U.S. will also put us back in charge of our energy security, making us less reliant on other nations for energy. As Powers puts it, “climate change is the mother of all risks… We must act on the scientific evidence from our nation’s best climate scientists.”

By leading through constant innovation, research, and education, higher ed has an important role to play when it comes to national security and climate change. Contributing to climate solutions is also contributing to our national security. 


Climate Change Is the ‘Mother of All Risks’ to National Security

Jon Powers | Time | November 6, 2015

Serving at Pentagon, I worked with leaders who studied threats ranging from insurgent groups to rogue states. One of the U.S. military’s less-noticed findings, however, is that there is clear consensus that climate change poses an immediate risk to national security.

Military leaders recognize that they must lead by example and address the threat of climate change, and they are actively pushing goals to dramatically scale up renewable energy. The U.S. must replicate this leadership and seize the opportunity when countries meet this December in Paris to finalize a global deal on climate change.

To the military, climate change acts as a threat multiplier, exacerbating threats in already unstable regions of the world. Just as we act aggressively on information from the national security intelligence community, we must also act on the scientific evidence from our nation’s best climate scientists.

In the security world, decisions are made by a careful evaluation of risk. And climate change is the mother of all risks. As the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change warned last year, without action on climate change, our children and grandchildren will face “severe, pervasive and irreversible impacts.”

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