Top Pacific admiral identifies climate change as greatest security threat

Politics,Beltway Confidential,Michal Conger

The greatest long-term security threat in the Pacific isn’t a Chinese cyberattack, a North Korean missile or any other military threat, the top commander of the U.S. Pacific Forces said in a recent interview in the Boston Globe:

America’s top military officer in charge of monitoring hostile actions by North Korea, escalating tensions between China and Japan, and a spike in computer attacks traced to China provides an unexpected answer when asked what is the biggest long-term security threat in the Pacific region: climate change.

Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, in an interview at a Cambridge hotel Friday after he met with scholars at Harvard and Tufts universities, said significant upheaval related to the warming planet “is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.’’

“People are surprised sometimes,” he added, describing the reaction to his assessment. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

The Obama administration’s”Asia pivot” has turned the military’s focus to a region where North Korea has threatened to launch a nuclear weapon at the United States, and tensions between China and Japan have escalated over ownership of disputed islands.

But Locklear said the danger of rising seas has even become a part of discussions with other nations.

“We have interjected into our multilateral dialogue – even with China and India – the imperative to kind of get military capabilities aligned [for] when the effects of climate change start to impact these massive populations,” he said. “If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.’’

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