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.

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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Climate change, cancer are surprisingly similar

This Guest Opinion from Barbara Schlachter was published in the Iowa City Press Citizen

schlachterEarth Day and Mother’s Day have come and gone. We can forget about our Mother the Earth for almost a year, if we choose. This year’s observances have been extremely poignant for me. When you are diagnosed with ovarian cancer, you do not automatically assume you will have many more years to celebrate your relationship to our Mother Earth, or your children.

I continue insofar as I am able to be active in action related to climate change, and it has given me pause to realize how cancer and our runaway reliance on fossil fuels are so similar to each other. Cancer is, by definition, cells that multiply against the best interests of their host. They threaten to take over and destroy if not stopped. In spite of other ways we can provide energy to our world, carbon emissions continue to rise, even with the knowledge that their continued proliferation will result in temperatures that will no longer be conducive to many forms of life, including human life. Capitalism and corporate control of our government almost make it impossible to stop the continuation of our mining, transporting and burning every last bit of carbon in the earth, without consideration for what happens next. Globalization and the fossil fuel industry’s heavy influence have put most decisions out of the control of the people most affected by them.

When I received my diagnosis, I was shocked. But thank God, surgery and treatment were offered to me. I am hopeful that they will result in an extended stay on this earth, and so I have endured and will endure whatever it takes for this possibility. If this cancer had asked if it could spread through my abdomen, you can bet I would have said an emphatic “No.” Yet here we are in Iowa with the possibility of the Bakken pipeline cutting diagonally through our precious state, looking somewhat like the weird scar on my abdomen, and we have to go through a long process of protest with no guarantee that it will not be built. It would mean 570,000 barrels of flammable crude oil running through Iowa every day, compromising our soil and our streams.

I wish someone had told me that if you have breast cancer, you have greater odds of getting ovarian cancer. I wish I had been told by my breast oncologist and my primary care physician to watch for certain signs. I wasn’t. I can claim ignorance and bad luck, as one of them put it. But none of us can claim we didn’t know what we were doing to our atmosphere and what would happen if we continued to do it.

Joanna Macy refers to Robert Jay Lifton, the psychiatrist who pioneered the study of the psychological effects of nuclear bombs. The refusal to acknowledge or respond to actual or impending disaster is “part of the disease of our time. … It divorces our mental calculations from our intuitive, emotional, and biological imbeddedness in the matrix of life. That split allows us passively to acquiesce in the preparations for our own demise.”

The words “climate change” have been disallowed in several states, giving it the status of “the C-word,” like cancer used to be when polite people didn’t talk about it or admit to having it. George Marshall, in “Don’t Even Think About It,” refers to Seth Godin, a communications expert who wonders whether calling it “Atmosphere Cancer … might produce more alarm.”

My alarm resulted in action. Hopefully when you read this, I will be halfway through six chemotherapy treatments. The chemo drugs I receive are paclitaxel and carboplatin. They are referred to by those in the trade as “carbotax.” That is pretty ironic considering I have been working for the past four years for Congress to pass a fee and dividend on carbon, often referred to as a “carbontax.” “Make my body a prayerstick for the world,” to quote Meinard Craighead.

The Rev. Dr. Barbara Schlachter is a co-founder of 100Grannies for a Livable Future and a member of the Iowa City Climate Advocates, who are working with Citizens Climate Lobby to pass a fee and dividend on carbon.