6/01/2017 — 

WASHINGTON, DC – With reports that the Trump Administration will be pulling the United States out of the Paris agreement, U.S. Senators Bob Menendez  (D-NJ) and Jack Reed (D-RI) wrote to President Trump urging his Administration to first consider the substantial foreign relations and national security implications of refusing to remain a party to the Paris agreement.  Citing Trump administration officials and world leaders, the senators go beyond the grave environmental and economic impact of a withdrawal by outlining the geopolitical consequences of refusing to take a leadership role in upholding the 197-nation Paris accord on climate change.

“In addition to the myriad threats climate change poses to our nation’s military and security apparatus, leaving the Paris agreement would damage relationships with our allies and weaken American leadership on the global stage,” wrote the Senators. “Withdrawing from the agreement or failing to meet our commitments would undermine the United States’ credibility and position as a global leader, empowering sometimes adversarial nations like China to not only drive the agenda and set international standards, but also reap the economic benefits of a growing clean energy sector.”

Reed also issued a statement, noting: “President Trump’s decision to abandon the Paris climate agreement is a blow to the environment that makes us a less secure nation.  Our military, which spends every hour of every day thinking about how to protect Americans says climate change is a problem and a real threat multiplier.  Indeed, climate change is an established part of the military’s threat and risk assessments. The United States should continue to be a leader when it comes to protecting the planet; instead, the President is abdicating this responsibility.  President Trump is unwisely putting the United States alongside Syria and Nicaragua in declining to be part of the Paris agreement.  The American people deserve better.” 

A copy of the letter can be found below:

Dear Mr. President:

With recent reports that you will pull the United States out of the Paris Climate Agreement, we write to strongly urge you to consider the foreign relations and national security implications before your Administration makes any final decision on the matter.  In addition to the myriad threats climate change poses to our nation’s military and security apparatus, leaving the Paris agreement would damage relationships with our allies and weaken American leadership on the global stage. 

The Paris Climate Agreement has garnered the support of 197 signatories who recognize the grave and imminent environmental risks and national security threats climate change poses. Many of these signatories are critical U.S. allies and partners with whom we have shared and enduring interests. Addressing COP 21 in Paris, Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu proclaimed that, “today we must focus on the security, not just of the nations of the world, but of the world itself…  This is a pivotal issue of our time.  It’s a pivotal issue for developed nations; it’s a pivotal issue for developing nations.  We are one planet, and climate knows no bounds.”  Every member of the G7, including the entire European Union, is a party to the Paris agreement, and has made a national commitment to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions.  Even Saudi Arabia, the world’s largest oil exporter and the nation that you selected as the first destination on your inaugural foreign trip, is a party to the agreement and pledged to implement its commitments.

In his address to Congress, Pope Francis conveyed the words of his encyclical, saying, “we need a conversation which includes everyone, since the environmental challenge we are undergoing, and its human roots, concern and affect us all.”  The Paris agreement creates just that conversation – a forum in which all nations can address this critical global challenge together. Withdrawing from the agreement or failing to meet our commitments, would undermine the United States’ credibility and position as a global leader, empowering sometimes adversarial nations like China to not only drive the agenda and set international standards, but also reap the economic benefits of a growing clean energy sector. 

Rescinding our commitment to the Paris agreement or otherwise failing to address the threat of climate change would likewise have significant consequences on our national security and military readiness.  The Department of Defense’s 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap states it succinctly: “Climate change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.”  The report goes on to note that climate change has the potential to hinder the military’s planning and operations capability; impair its ability to carry out training, testing, and missions; degrade its physical infrastructure; and disrupt its supply chains[1].

The Office of the Director of National Intelligence makes similar findings in its 2016 report on the implications for U.S. national security of anticipated climate change.  The report discusses a wide range of national security threats, including political instability, risks to human health, and increasing social and political tensions. The report cites a number of concerning examples current real world consequences of climate change, including the exploitation by terrorist groups of climate-driven famine, protests and violence sparked by water shortages, and refugee crises fueled by scarcity of resources[2].

These concerns have been further echoed by your Secretary of Defense, James Mattis.  In responses to the Senate Armed Services Committee, Secretary Mattis noted that “Climate change can be a driver of instability and the Department of Defense must pay attention to potential adverse impacts generated by this phenomenon.” and that “Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”

The foreign policy and national security risks of climate change are real and growing.  We believe that America should continue to take a leadership role in confronting these challenges, including through remaining a party to the Paris agreement.  We urge you to take these factors under advisement before your Administration makes any final decision with respect to the agreement.