This past Tuesday, President Trump signed a bill into law that formally recognizes climate change as a national security threat to the United States. While the president has long railed against climate change and advocated for fossil fuels, the Trump Administration and a Republican-controlled Congress have taken a small but significant step towards formally recognizing climate change. Now that this stance has become codified law, the United States will be further pressured to act.
The newly signed law is a hard-earned result of the bipartisan organizing done by the Climate Solutions Caucus. Established in February 2016, the caucus was founded by Democratic Congressman Ted Deutch and Republican Congressman Carlos Curbelo “to educate members on economically-viable options to reduce climate risk and to explore bipartisan policy options that address the impacts, causes, and challenges of our changing climate.” Currently, there are 24 Democrats and 24 Republicans who serve as members of the caucus. The climate change provision reached the president’s desk as an amendment to the must-pass, annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). Republican leadership attempted to remove the provision from the bill, but were defeated when 46 Republican representatives defected and voted to uphold the provision.
It requires the Pentagon to conduct a report on the specific vulnerabilities of American military assets to climate change over the next twenty years. In addition, the amendment formally recognizes what the scientific community and the United States military has been saying for years. “Climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States,” reads the law, “and is impacting stability in areas of the world where the United States armed forces are operating today, and where strategic implications for future conflicts exist.” Since Trump made national security a key plank of his campaign platform, he will be under further pressure to act. Whether the president chooses to do so remains doubtful.