Obama to tell Coast Guard graduates climate change is a ‘serious threat to global security’

By Lisa Friedman | 05/20/2015 08:53 AM EDT

President Obama today will warn the newest members of America’s armed forces that climate change poses an immediate national security risk and will profoundly affect the U.S. military.

In a commencement address to the graduating class of the U.S. Coast Guard Academy, Obama will point to sea-level rise worsening floods at the Norfolk, Va., naval base and thawing permafrost damaging Alaska facilities as just some of the ways that climate change threatens to undermine military readiness.

Meanwhile, a White House official said, Obama will caution that "no nation is immune" to the ravages of rising global temperatures and argue that all countries must act together to tackle rising emissions.


"You are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us. Climate change will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, today and for the long-term," Obama will say, according to excerpts of his speech released by the White House.

"This is not just a problem for countries on the coast or for certain regions of the world. Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I am here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security, and, make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act — and we need to act now," he will tell graduates.

White House report details military risks

The address in New London, Conn., is part of a broad effort by the Obama administration to build public support for grappling with climate change ahead of key U.N. negotiations. Those talks are expected to culminate in December in Paris, where diplomats will hammer out a new global accord to dramatically ratchet down greenhouse gas emissions.

Also today, the White House will release a sweeping report detailing the national security implications of climate change from Africa to the Arctic. Culled from analyses conducted by the Pentagon, the Department of Homeland Security, the National Intelligence Council and others, the report warns that climate change will have far-reaching implications for both military installations and the future of U.S. troop deployment.

A White House official said the Pentagon currently is assessing the vulnerability of the military’s more than 7,000 bases and other facilities to climate change and studying the implications of increased demand for the National Guard in the aftermath of extreme weather events.

"Climate change, especially rising seas, is a threat to our homeland security — our economy, infrastructure, and the safety and health of the American people. In Miami and Charleston, streets now flood at high tide. Along our coasts, thousands of miles of highways, roads, railways and energy facilities are vulnerable. It’s estimated that a further increase in sea level of one foot — just one foot — by the end of this century could cost our nation $200 billion," Obama will say.

The speech will be the second time Obama has addressed the U.S. Coast Guard Academy. By tradition, the president delivers a commencement address at one of the U.S. service academies on a rotating basis.