Climate Change, Energy and National Security

We Must Work Together on an American Strategy

View the statement here

Watch a video of Sen. Lieberman's remarks
Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3

Listen to the speakers' remarks here

See more pictures of the event here

On September 8, 2009, the Partnership for a Secure America convened a high level panel on climate change and national security featuring Senator Joe Lieberman (ID-CT), former Director of Central Intelligence R. James Woolsey, Vadm. Dennis McGinn (Ret.), and PSA Advisory Board member Amb. Frank Wisner. The same morning, PSA released a high level bipartisan statement on climate change, energy, and national security, published as a full page ad in Politico. Signed by 32 prominent Democrats and Republicans, the statement emphasizes that “climate change is a national security issue” that requires “a clear, comprehensive, realistic and broadly bipartisan plan to address our role in the climate change crisis.”

Sen. Lieberman began by recognizing the Partnership for a Secure America’s efforts to bring together an “extraordinary group of American leaders of both major parties” to highlight that climate change is a national security matter. He discussed the major dislocations and refugee flows, pandemics, environmental degradation, and weakening of national governments that can occur from climate change.  Sen. Lieberman noted that a climate change bill, co-sponsored by Sen. Lieberman and then-Senator John Warner (R-VA), got 54 votes for cloture last year, six shy of the necessary number, including the votes of Senators Obama and McCain.  Currently, Sen. Lieberman is committed to building alliances with the group of Senators who are still considering which way to vote on climate change legislation. He noted three major issues preventing that group of Senators from getting to yes: 1) concerns of Senators from coal-producing states, 2) support for nuclear energy, and 3) the creation of subsidies for consumers “to cushion the impact in the early years of the change we are adopting on consumer prices.”

Adm. McGinn spoke about the effects of climate change on national security planning. He said that “we cannot drill our way to sustained economic security and prosperity.” He emphasized that “fierce global competition, instability, and conflict over dwindling supplies of fossil fuel will be a major part of the future strategic landscape.” He underscored the risk posed to America’s soldiers from the failure to mitigate the significant and varied national security risks posed by climate change.

Mr. Woolsey said that the goal should be “to make oil like salt,” in that oil will always be used, as salt still is, but it will no longer be a substance that is valued so highly that it threatens national security and causes wars, as salt once did as well. He believed a significant reduction in demand for oil for transportation purposes can be achieved relatively quickly through increased use of more efficient transportation vehicles, such as electric-powered cars.

Amb. Wisner began by discussing the difficulties in grappling with the national security problem of climate change. He spoke about the positive effect on international opinion of American action on climate change and, conversely, the costs of American inaction. Such inaction would be “perceived around the world as an inability to come to grips domestically and internationally with the major issues of our time and will reflect on the way the world sees us,” said Amb. Wisner.