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Climate Change

Published on March 15th, 2017 | by Tina Casey


Et Tu, Mattis? Newly Minted Trump Sec’y of Defense Is A Climate Change Hawk

March 15th, 2017 by  

The latest news about discombobulation in the Trump Administration is scorching through the Intertubes like wildfire: in written testimony for his Senate confirmation hearings, newly tapped US Secretary of Defense James Mattis declared the urgency of preparing for the national security impacts of rising sea levels, desertification and other climate change impacts.

Left up in the air was the vital question of whether or not Mattis accepts the settled science attributing the generations-long global warming trend to human activity, but oh well. Baby steps.

What Mattis Wrote About Climate Change

The news organization Pro Publica broke the news about Mattis’s position on climate change earlier this week.

Mattis’s comments appear in written, previously unpublished testimony submitted to the Senate Armed Services Committee, as part of a routine followup for legislators requesting additional detail from a nominee.

Pro Publica obtained excerpts from the written testimony from “someone involved with coordinating efforts on climate change preparedness” in the Department of Defense and a dozen or so other federal agencies. Their authenticity has been concerned, so here goes a sample Q and A from Senator Jeanne Shaheen (D – New Hampshire):

Shaheen: “…Do you believe climate change is a security threat?”

Mattis: “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.”

Shaheen: “General Mattis, how should the military prepare to address this threat?”

Mattis: “…climate change is a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of government response…”


“I agree that the effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.”

Support our troops!

Those of you familiar with the Defense Department’s consensus on climate related threats won’t be too surprised by the forcefulness of Mattis’s position, but it appears that the rest of the world is quite shocked (do visit Pro Publica for more details).

Meanwhile, the latest winter storm has postponed a much-anticipated meeting between German Chancellor Andrea Merkel, who is a staunch advocate for climate action, and President Trump, who has been known to refer to climate change as a Chinese hoax.

Trump has also made it known that his future fuels of choice are coal, petroleum, and natural gas, though not necessarily in that order.

As of this writing Trump and Merkel have agreed to reschedule their meeting. No word yet on what Trump will bring to the table, now that his own Secretary of Defense has let the climate cat out of the bag.

Meanwhile…Rick Perry!

If Mattis is prepared to take the climate fight to the Oval Office, he won’t get much help from EPA head Scott Pruitt.

Energy Department chief Rick Perry, though, could be a helpful ally.

Perry has a somewhat fraught history with the Energy Department and his choice of reading material is a little odd for someone who heads up what is essentially a science agency.

However, the former Texas governor is a big fan of wind energy, so there’s that. Partly under his governorship Texas surged to the forefront of top wind producers with the help of a major transmission project that brings renewable energy from the state’s wind-rich west to eastern population centers.

If you’re the optimistic type, look for the Energy Department to continue on track with support for renewable energy.

That could come at the continued expense of coal, regardless of Trump’s repeated promises to boost coal jobs.

The coal industry is in a big pickle despite having a friendly voice in the White House. That’s probably because the primary competition for coal — natural gas — has a powerful voice of its own in newly minted Secretary of State and former ExxonMobil CEO Rex Tillerson.

Carbon capture technology is just about the only lifeline that the coal industry has left, and stakeholders are pleading with the Trump Administration to save carbon capture R&D from the budget cuts slated for the Energy Department.

They might want to be careful what they wish for. ExxonMobil is already maneuvering to deploy at least one Energy Department-supported carbon capture demonstration project for the benefit of natural gas, too.

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Photo: US Army Sgt. Amber L. Smith via flickr.com, creative commons license.

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About the Author

specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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