Climate Change Poses A Greater Threat To Humanity Than Ebola And ISIS Combined

by John Haltiwanger

The Pentagon just released a report contending that climate change poses an imminent threat to national security. Simply put, it's not just leading to rising temperatures, it impacts every single aspect of our world, including the strength and capabilities of the US military.

Weather patterns are unpredictable, and the military must prepare for rising sea levels, increases in flooding, drought and extreme temperatures.

Accordingly, the report is comprehensive and it provides a roadmap for the US military as it adjusts to climate-related threats. These climate threats will now be incorporated into the Pentagon's "plans, operations and training."

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel opened the report by characterizing climate change as a "threat multiplier." In his view, climate change exacerbates the many challenges we face today, "from infectious disease to terrorism."

Thus, this is not only an issue of US national security, it affects the entire world. Likewise, Hagel stated:

Climate change is a global problem. Its impacts do not respect national borders. No nation can deal with it alone. We must work together, building joint capabilities to deal with these emerging threats. Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning.

Indeed, Hagel is correct. While many of us are distracted by the rise of ISIS and the spread of Ebola, climate change is actively destabilizing the planet. It might seem invisible to us, but this is a very real problem. If we don't act now, we risk making the only planet we have completely unlivable.

ISIS and Ebola are certainly very serious issues, and it would be wrong to undermine efforts to address these issues. Yet, these are both very regional problems at present, while climate change impacts the entire world.

The military is typically the definition of regimentation and conservatism. It is an entity sustained by tradition and ritual. Without question, the United States has the most powerful armed forces in the world, and perhaps in history.

Thus, when the US military is willing to acknowledge climate change, and highlights the pressing need to adapt to it, this should be a sign to the entire world.

In essence, it's time for a massive change in the way we behave and treat the environment.

Climate Change Is Happening Now, And It's Bad For Our Health

According to NASA, nine of the 10 warmest years on record have occurred since 2000. In fact, the summer of 2014 was the warmest summer ever recorded.

Over the past century, Earth's average temperature has risen by 1.4 degrees Fahrenheit, and it's projected that it will only continue to rise. This will contribute to weather-related disasters, ice caps will melt, sea levels will rise and coastal cities could potentially disappear.

We have already witnessed an increase in natural disasters, and they have been a direct product of climate change.

All of this will undoubtedly impact the stability and health of our societies, in many places it already has.

Dr. Margaret Chan is the Director-General of the World Health Organization, as she puts it:

For public health, climate change is the defining issue for the 21st century. Climate and weather variables affect the air people breathe, the food they eat, the water they drink, and the chances that they will get infected with a life-threatening infectious disease. .... The evidence is there, and it is compelling. Here is my strong view: climate change, and all of its dire consequences for health, should be at centre-stage, right now, whenever talk turns to the future of human civilizations. After all, that's what's at stake.

She made these statements in direct reference to Ebola. Hence, the individual responsible for leading the charge against the current Ebola outbreak has made the decisive claim that climate change is the greatest threat we face.

As Chan highlights, unlike Ebola, climate change is universal, unpredictable and it cannot be "contained by doctors in hazmat suits, patients in isolation wards, or hopes that a vaccine or cure is somewhere on the horizon."

Climate change is a product of human activities, 97 percent of scientists agree on this. We caused the problem, thus we must be the solution.

Climate Change Can Lead To War

Due to its impact on the environment, climate change can lead to competition over important resources, particularly food, water and energy.

Climate change can be directly tied to drought, which destroys crops. In countries that are already suffering from poverty, this can lead to political and social unrest.

Correspondingly, a report released by the UN in March argues that climate change will destabilize the world by exacerbating resource inequality, famine and poverty. This will lead to violence over food, water, energy and land, as well as mass migrations.

In fact, we have already seen this happen in Syria. One of the worst droughts in modern history was a massive factor in the political instability that sparked the devastating civil war that currently engulfs this Arab nation.

Climate change will also present security challenges in the Arctic. As polar ice caps continue to melt a new sea lane will emerge, producing competition over deposits of valuable natural resources in the region as they become more accessible.

Therefore, it's impossible to deny that climate change is the single greatest threat to the world and the species that inhabit it, including humans.

If we do not make a concerted effort to reduce our carbon emissions and find more sustainable forms of energy, we will not be long for this Earth. Mother nature is ruthless; a number of species have come and gone before us. We would be foolish to view ourselves as invincible.

This is not our world alone, we are simply a product of it. If we continue down this current road, the planet will survive, but we will not.

Photo Courtesy: Jenn