HEARING OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS SUBJECT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND GLOBAL SECURITY: CHALLENGES, THREATS AND DIPLOMATIC OPPORTUNITIES CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA) WITNESSES: JOHN WARNER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR, ALEXANDRIA, VA; VICE ADMIRAL LEE F. GUNN, USN (RET.), PRESIDENT, AMERICAN SECURITY PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; SHARON BURKE, VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY, WASHINGTON, D.C.; VICE ADMIRAL DENNIS MCGINN, USN (RET.), MEMBER, CENTER FOR NAVAL ANALYSIS ADVISORY BOARD, LEXINGTON PARK, MARYLAND LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C. TIME: 2:15 P.M EDT DATE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2009(Part 1)
HEARING OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS SUBJECT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND GLOBAL SECURITY: CHALLENGES, THREATS AND DIPLOMATIC OPPORTUNITIES CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA) WITNESSES: JOHN WARNER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR, ALEXANDRIA, VA; VICE ADMIRAL LEE F. GUNN, USN (RET.), PRESIDENT, AMERICAN SECURITY PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; SHARON BURKE, VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY, WASHINGTON, D.C.; VICE ADMIRAL DENNIS MCGINN, USN (RET.), MEMBER, CENTER FOR NAVAL ANALYSIS ADVISORY BOARD, LEXINGTON PARK, MARYLAND LOCATION: 419 DIRKSEN SENATE OFFICE BUILDING, WASHINGTON, D.C. TIME: 2:15 P.M EDT DATE: WEDNESDAY, JULY 21, 2009
SEN. KERRY: The hearing will come to order. I apologize to everybody for being just a little bit late. We just had a business meeting of the committee over the capital, which is why the doors were shut and why the senators weren't here, and we just passed out a slew of ambassadors and various assistant secretaries, et cetera. So we're on track, and I thank all the committee -- subcommittee chairs for moving all of those folks as rapidly as they have.
We're here today to -- Senator Lugar, incidentally -- I normally don't start without him, but he is on his way over. He's right here. Terrific. Thanks, Dick. We're here today to discuss a grave and growing thread to global stability, human security, and America's national security. As you're going to hear from all of today's witnesses, the threat of catastrophic climate change is not simply as academic concern for the future.
It's already on us, happening now. As a matter of fact, I just came from a meeting earlier today with the governor of Colorado, Governor Bill Ritter, who was describing the impact on Colorado, which has lost a million acres of pine trees as a consequence of the pine needle that needs a three-week period each year at the right time to freeze, and that time is normally in the sort of early fall. Doesn't happen anymore. So for the last six years or so the absence of that freeze has allowed the infestation to take place, and literally millions of acres of forest have been lost, not just there, but north up into Canada, Alaska, and so forth.
So it is not academic. It is happening now. The effects are being felt globally in different ways. Earlier this year, a 25-mile wide ice bridge connecting the Wilkins Ice Shelf to the Antarctic landmass shattered, disconnecting the shelf from the Antarctic continent. In four years, the Arctic is projected to experience its first ice-free summer, not in 2030, as many earlier predicted, but in 2013. So the threat is magnifying, growing in the evidence that is coming at us. Just as 9-11 taught us the painful lesson that oceans could not protect us from terror, today anyone who thinks otherwise is deluding themselves if they believe that climate change is going to somehow stop at our borders.
Fortunately, America's most trusted security voices, including those here today, have been sounding the alarm. In 2007, 11 former admirals and high-ranking generals issued a seminal report from the Center for Naval Analysis, where Vice Admiral Dennis McGinn serves on the Military Advisory Board. They warned that climate change is a, quote, "threat multiplier" with "the potential to create sustained natural and humanitarian disasters on a scale far beyond those we see today." This is because climate change injects a major new source of chaos, tension, and human insecurity into an already volatile world. It threatens to bring more famine and drought, worse pandemics, more natural disasters, more resource scarcity, and human displacement on a staggering scale. Places only too familiar with the instability, conflict, and resource competition that often creates refugees and IDPs, as we call them, internally displaced persons, will now confront these same challenges with an ever growing population of EDPs, environmentally displaced people. We risk fanning the flames of failed state-ism, and offering glaring opportunities to the worst actors in our international system. In an interconnected world, that endangers all of us.
Nowhere is the nexus between today's threats and climate change more acute than in South Asia ,the home of Al Qaeda and the center of our terrorist threat. Scientists are now warning that the Himalayan glaciers, which supply water to almost a billion people from China to Afghanistan, could disappear completely by 2035. Water from the Himalayas flows through India into Pakistan. India's rivers are not only agriculturally vital, but they are central to the religious practice of that country. Pakistan, for its part, is heavily dependent on irrigated farming. Even as our government scrambles to ratchet down tensions and prepares to invest billions to strengthen Pakistan's capacity to deliver for its people, climate change threatens to work powerfully in the opposite direction.
Worldwide, climate change risks making the most volatile places even more combustible. The Middle East is home to six percent of the world's population, but just two percent of the world's water. A demographic boom and a shrinking water supply will only tighten the squeeze on a region that doesn't need another reason to disagree about something.
Closer to home, there is scarcely an instrument of American foreign policy that will be untouched by a changing climate. Diego Garcia Island in the Indian Ocean, a vital hub for our military operations across the Middle East, sits on an atoll just a few feet above sea level. Norfolk, Virginia, home to our Atlantic fleet, will be submerged by one meter of sea level rise during this century alone. That's if we prevent the West Antarctic Ice Sheet and the Greenland Ice Sheet from melting. If they melt, you're looking at 16 to 23 feet of sea level increase.
Now, these problems today as we sit here now and measure them now are not insurmountable, but they are going to be expensive in some places over time, and they risk compromising our readiness. The future has a way of humbling those who try to predict it too precisely. But we do know from scientists and security experts that the threat is very real. If we fail to connect the dots, if we fail to take action, the simple, indisputable reality is that we will find ourselves living not only in a ravaged environment, but in a much more dangerous world.
We're honored to be joined today by a number of experts in this field of security, one that has not, frankly, been paid enough attention to. And it has in many ways been absent from the debate. And today's hearing is purposely to put it front and center where it belongs with people whose credibility, frankly, is unmatched. We're joined by an old friend who needs no introduction in these halls, but I'll just say a few words quickly.
John Warner served five terms as a U.S. senator from Virginia. He enlisted in the Navy at the age of 17, served as a sailor in World War Two, fought as a Marine in Korea, and rose to become secretary of the Navy. And I had the pleasure of being connected to him during that period of time while I was serving in Vietnam. Senator Warner became a friend, a colleague for 24 years, and one of the great gentlemen of this institution.
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Source Citation:"HEARING OF THE SENATE COMMITTEE ON FOREIGN RELATIONS SUBJECT: CLIMATE CHANGE AND GLOBAL SECURITY: CHALLENGES, THREATS AND DIPLOMATIC OPPORTUNITIES CHAIRED BY: SENATOR JOHN F. KERRY (D-MA) WITNESSES: JOHN WARNER, FORMER U.S. SENATOR, ALEXANDRIA, VA; VICE ADMIRAL LEE F. GUNN, USN (RET.), PRESIDENT, AMERICAN SECURITY PROJECT, WASHINGTON, D.C.; SHARON BURKE, VICE PRESIDENT, CENTER FOR A NEW AMERICAN SECURITY,... (Part 1).(Congressional Hearing)." Congressional Hearing Transcript Database (July 22, 2009): NA. Academic OneFile. Gale. BROWARD COUNTY LIBRARY. 29 Aug. 2009
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