Climate Change is a Security Risk

Climate Change is a Security Risk

by Eric Johnson (from the Iowa City Press-Citizen, April 21, 2016)

In 2014, the Pentagon cited climate change as an “immediate” threat to the United States’ safety because of the strain it will put on our military, both in responding to climate change-caused disasters in our own country and dealing with political unrest in nations that fall apart under the stress of climate change. Last July, the Department of Defense delivered a similar report to Congress, concluding that the “Defense Department already is observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, the Arctic, the Middle East, Africa, Asia and South America.”

These projections may sound a bit abstract, so let’s look at the damage that climate change is causing right now and see what it might look like when the full weight of this problem hits our country.

It may be hard for us to imagine here in the breadbasket of the world, but many populated areas are very dry. Growing food in these regions has no margin for error, and even relatively small fluctuations in rainfall can cause food scarcity and trigger mass migrations of people. Beginning in 2006, Syria experienced a long drought that resulted in many rural residents losing their livelihoods. This helped to spark the bloody civil war that’s been raging for five years now. Other fallout from this drought includes the rise of ISIS (it’s true—check and the immigrant crisis in Europe. According to the UN, 4.8 million Syrians have been displaced from their home country. As the weather becomes more erratic and imperils other countries’ food supplies and economies, we will see many more ISIS-like groups and millions of people flooding into neighboring countries as refugees.

The United States could easily experience an immigration crisis similar to what Europe is facing now. Mexico has less farmable land per capita than Syria. A severe drought in Mexico could lead to a mass migration of Mexicans seeking refuge in the US. Twenty-eight percent of Syrians have so far sought refuge in neighboring countries. If a similar proportion of Mexicans sought refuge in the US, we would be looking at 26 million Mexican refugees. That’s more than double the number of illegal Mexican immigrants currently living in our country.

Further, as climate change limits our own country’s resources and causes us to ration water and food, we will likely experience a surge of riots and violent crime. Scarcity scares people. This is especially dangerous in a country where many people have access to guns.

These are the kinds of scenarios the Pentagon is worried about. Climate change guarantees that things like this are going to happen. The only way to stop climate change is with action at the federal level. Proposed legislation currently exists to solve climate change, and it even creates millions of jobs. The plan is called Carbon Fee and Dividend, and it involves placing a fee on carbon, then taking the proceeds of that fee and distributing it equally to all American households. This protects the vast majority of Americans from increased energy costs, while at the same time creates an incentive to use less carbon-intensive energy and products.

However, no legislation that addresses the climate change threat will make it through Congress unless it’s supported by Republicans, as they control both houses. A group of Republicans in the House has started down the climate solution path, but there is currently no Republican leadership on this issue in the Senate. This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for a clear-sighted Republican to stand up and rescue us from the cliff we’re teetering on. This leader will go down in history as having saved the U.S. from these immigration and military catastrophes.

I nominate Senator Joni Ernst. Her military experience gives her unique insight into this looming threat. She wasn’t afraid to be the first female veteran in the Senate, so she shouldn’t be afraid to be the first to take on this historic challenge. Call Senator Ernst and tell her to support Carbon Fee and Dividend legislation.

Climate change goals can be reached with hard work

From the July 13 Iowa City Press-Citizen:


Forgive me if I’m feeling a little exposed at the moment, but I recently made a really big promise. This isn’t a “tell your daughter you’ll take her to the zoo on Saturday” kind of promise. No, we’re talking about a JFK, “We’re going to put a man on the moon” kind of promise.

On June 19, at the start of the Citizens’ Climate Lobby/Citizens’ Climate Education Conference in Washington, I stood before hundreds of CCL group leaders and congressional liaisons — the heart and soul of our organization — and I promised them this:

By the end of 2017, Congress will pass a bill that places a fee on carbon and returns net revenue to American households.

Perhaps you understand why I feel exposed. There are so many moving parts and variables involved that are totally outside my ability to control. So what gives me the audacity to say we can do this?

Well, when I made the promise, the answer was right there in the faces of the people I was talking to. I would never entertain such an outlandish thought, let alone say it out loud, if it were not for our amazing volunteers.

Volunteers like Pennsylvania’s Jay Butera, who saw the potential of bringing Republicans and Democrats together to combat the growing threat of rising sea levels. Two years ago, armed with nothing but his own determination, he flew down to south Florida — a region highly vulnerable to the effects of climate change — and recruited the volunteers who would form CCL’s Miami chapter. He painstakingly secured endorsements from mayors, city councils and chambers of commerce, convincing local Republican members of Congress that it was time to commit to action. His efforts eventually led to Republican Carlos Curbelo and Democrat Ted Deutch uniting to launch the bipartisan House Climate Solutions Caucus, which now has 16 members with equal numbers from both sides of the aisle.

Still, my heart was in my throat when I asked, “Who’s with me? Stand up if you’re with me.” When everyone stood up, my knees stopped shaking. I knew that they believe, just as I do, that this is no time to hedge our bets.

They know that bills that get introduced in Congress are a dime a dozen — that the only ones that count are the ones that pass. And they know that we’re running out of time. We’re getting dangerously close to the tipping point of no return on greenhouse gas emissions, the point where temperatures and seas will rise beyond our ability to adapt. It’s time for Congress to pass the most efficient and effective solution to climate change — a steadily rising, revenue-neutral fee on carbon. We can’t wait another five years until the “right” people get elected. To paraphrase former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld: You don’t save the world with the Congress you wish you had; you save the world with the Congress you have.

And that is what we intend to do. By the end of 2017.

I’m confident that making this bold commitment will energize our thousands of volunteers, who have dug so deep time and time again, to find another gear within themselves and do what many consider to be impossible.

With this promise, we tap into and unleash a force that only manifests itself when a powerful commitment is made. Many years ago, W.H. Murray described that power in his book, “The Scottish Himalayan Expedition”:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness. … (T)here is one elementary truth the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then providence moves too. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents, meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamt would have come his way.”

Yes, we’re all feeling a little exposed.  But sticking our necks out so we can preserve a healthy climate for our grandchildren?

That’s a risk we’re more than willing to take.

Mark Reynolds is the executive director of Citizens’ Climate Lobby.

Consider carbon fee and dividend system

In early June, the House of Representatives considered a resolution stating a carbon tax would be detrimental to the U.S. economy.

The main concerns were that it would raise energy costs, hurt America’s global competitiveness and disproportionately harm low-income families and the elderly. I share these valid concerns. They are all resolved, however, by a program of fee and dividend for CO2 emissions. This system would require a fee for all fossil fuels extracted from the ground or imported based on their CO2 emissions and return this revenue to American families evenly as a dividend.

There would be no revenue pulled out of the economy into government coffers. Households below median income would have their increased energy costs offset by the dividend, and there would be a progressive incentive to wean off fossil fuels. A border adjustment would be placed on imported and exported goods to eliminate any competitive disadvantage for products paying their true carbon cost. It would allow the free enterprise system to efficiently guide us to a low carbon future. A detailed discussion of this idea can be found at

Please contact your representatives and encourage them to consider a carbon fee and dividend system.

James McCoy

Iowa City

A Quiz for You

So, here’s a quiz question. Who wrote the following, when was it written, and to what was the writer referring?

“We now stand where two roads diverge. But unlike the roads in Robert Frost’s familiar poem, they are not equally fair. The road we have long been traveling is deceptively easy, a smooth superhighway on which we progress with great speed, but at its end lies disaster. The other fork of the road – the one ‘less traveled by’ – offers our last, our only chance to reach a destination that assures preservation of our earth.”

Carbon Fee & Dividend is the Best Way to Deal with Low Gas Prices

The current glut of oil on the world market and the resulting low gas prices are hampering efforts to follow up on the Paris Climate Agreement. Specifically, sales of SUVs have gone up, sales of hybrid and plug-in vehicles have gone down. It amazes me that long-term decisions like which car to buy are so strongly influenced by short-term fluctuations in the current price of gas. According to the Carbon Tax Center, “increased gas consumption in 2015 produced carbon emissions equivalent to a year’s worth of emissions from nine coal-fired power plants.”

Though the US is has fuel economy standards in place, and China is holding the price of oil artificially high, regulations are not enough.

This is a clear case for a revenue-neutral carbon fee, where a price is put on carbon, increasing yearly, with the revenues returned directly to tax-payers. Such a market-based solution will smooth out the ups and downs in the price of oil in a way that puts climate change front and center, and will do so more effectively than regulation. Furthermore, it will help the economy by providing a kind of stability in what to expect in terms of the price fossil-fuel-derived products, a win-win for Democrats and Republicans alike!

More on this can be found at

Now is the Time to Write a Letter to the Editor About the Paris Climate Talks

Have you been meaning to write a letter to the editor about some issue having to do with climate change, but get bogged down with things like where to send it, and whether you have all your facts straight? Well, here are two things to know:

1) The Paris Climate talks are now in full swing, and there will not be a better time to get the public to pay attention to what is going on, nor will there be a better time to put pressure on our representatives in Washington and in Des Moines that the time for doing nothing is over.

2) Citizens Climate Lobby has made it really easy to send a personal letter to the editor of all the newspapers in your geographical area. Go to the Citizen’s Climate Lobby website for more information. This link includes talking points to help you put your letter together.

Iowa City Climate Activists (ICCA) November 18 Meeting Notes

About 14 people showed up, a mixture of regulars and new people, many of whom are UIowa students taking a sustainability class.
• An overview of ICCA, CCL (Citizens Climate Lobby) and Fee & Dividend was presented, followed by going around the room and introducing ourselves. During that process, we ended up going off on various interesting tangents and having interesting discussions. A brief summary:
⁃ The Iowa City City Council will be having a planning session to work on the Strategic Plan on 11/30/15 from 1 pm to around 6 pm. Among the proposals that will be brought up will be one focusing on city issues related to climate change. Jim Throgmorton will report back to us on that planning session.
⁃ Attempts are being made to get the City, the County and the University to meet and work together on issues related to climate change (this is already being done on issues related to economic development).
⁃ We talked about how the Bakken pipeline hearings last week saw a conflict between labor (those who support the pipeline because of the good jobs it will create for pipeline workers, who make a career of so-called temporary jobs like this) and environmental stewardship. It was pointed out that building the infrastructure for alternatives to fossil fuel also provides good construction jobs. In order to learn about and address that perceived conflict, it was suggested that we meet will local labor leaders and hear what they have to say about this issue. Jim suggested Bill Gerhardt, President of the Building Trades Council, and Jesse Case, President of the City Federation of Labor. Jim will invite one or both of them to meet with us in mid-January, perhaps at our January meeting. It was suggested that we meet them at their office/workplace.
⁃ We talked about the Paris Climate Talks coming up, which start November 30. Linda Quinn mentioned that 100 Grannies might be organizing some kind of action around that, but the details are not known yet.
⁃ While talking about sustainability in housing, we noted that landlords of apartment buildings are not motivated to invest in things such as easy recycling, good insulation, quality windows, efficient air-conditioning and heating, etc. In an effort to learn about and, perhaps, eventually, address this problem, Salome Phillman will do some research on how other cities might be approaching this problem, and report back to us at our December meeting if possible. Also, Barbara Eckstein will contact Ely Shepard (currently a student at Grinnell but previously a high school student in Iowa City who was active in this area) to see if he can meet with us and tell us what he knows about this issue. Taking pictures of apartments where these kinds of problems are visible was also suggested.d
⁃ Andrew Guttman suggested we see if the Johnson County Board of Supervisors would approve a resolution supporting Fee and Dividend. Andrew will look into this and report back to us.
⁃ I reminded everyone to please notify me ( or Eric Johnson ( when you send letters to the editor, to any of your representatives, or had an op-ed piece published, both for our own records and to share with CCL, as they like to track these things. Also, notify one of us if you have anything you would like posted on the web page.

We meet the third Wednesday of every month from 7-8:30 pm. Our next meeting will be December 16, location to be announced.

Weather Channel Taking Active Climate Change Stance

Here is a promising sign. This article, distributed by the Associated Press appeared in the “Hollywood Reporter on 6/22/2015”. Here is a link to the Weather Channel Climate 25 videos

The message is consciously designed to reach people who may be doubters about the causes of global warming.
weather_channel_anaridis_rodriguez_-_h_-_2015NEW YORK (AP) — The Weather Channel is looking beyond cold fronts and summer showers with a project featuring the voices of 25 prominent people talking about the need to take action on climate change.

The network says its “The Climate 25” series is about science, not politics. But its message is unmistakable, and is consciously designed to reach people who may be doubters about the causes of global warming.

U.S. Army Gen. Charles Jacoby, Unilever CEO Paul Polman, former Environmental Protection Agency administrator Christine Todd Whitman and former Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson are among the participants. The 25 are filmed in black-and-white speaking directly to the camera about their perspectives on climate change.
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