Top Military Officer: Climate Change Biggest Threat to Security

  News & Politics
AlterNet / By Alex Kane

Admiral Samuel Locklear told the Boston Globe that global warming could ‘cripple the security environment.’

Photo Credit: © Meryll/

March 11, 2013  |
This article was published in partnership with
The nuclear-war themed back and forth between North and South Korea is not the biggest threat to the Asia-Pacific region. Instead, it’s climate change, according to a top military officer.
Admiral Samuel Locklear, a naval officer in charge of the Asia-Pacific region, told the Boston Globe Friday that global warming “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.” Locklear added: “People are surprised sometimes…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.”
Locklear made the comments to the Boston Globe during an interview after he met with scholars at Harvard and Tufts Universities. He met with a number of foreign policy specialists to discuss U.S. policy towards Asia as the Obama administrations goes ahead with its plan to “pivot” to the region. The visit to the Boston-area came as North and South Korea traded verbal blows after North Korea conducted an underground nuclear test. Despite those real challenges, though, Locklear focused on climate change as an even more important threat.
“The ice is melting and sea is getting higher,” said Locklear. “I’m into the consequence management side of it. I’m not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they’re contemplating moving their entire population to another country because [it] is not going to exist anymore.”
Locklear said that the U.S. military had begun to reach out to other militaries to deal with the threat of global warming. “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 told the Boston Globe. “If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.”

Alex Kane is AlterNet’s New York-based World editor, and an assistant editor for Mondoweiss. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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