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Activists hope upcoming defence bill could alert Trump to climate change’s threat to national security

As Congress returns from recess, a major piece of defence legislation is up for consideration that could prove to be invaluable for those looking to the US to fight climate change1. The annual National Defence Authorisation Act (NDAA2), which specifies defence spending as well as foreign policy goals, will be debated in the Senate and the fact it normally gets bipartisan support means it becomes a lightning rod for different policies . This year, one of the amendments – if it is voted through – calls on the Pentagon to produce a report on the security risks posed by climate change. It will now be up to the Senate to pass the act with or without the Langevin amendment – but if it passes the signal it sends will be at odds with those put out by the Trump adminsitration up unil now.

Debate had been opened on the bill prior to the recess, however it was the same day as a crucial vote on the Republican replacement for Obamacare3 and debate quickly shifted back to healthcare on the Senate floor.

Donald Trump4 has begun the formal process to withdraw the US from the Paris Agreement on climate change, a global accord signed by nearly 200 countries to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions and help poorer countries adjust to an already-changed planet. The move was criticised by several countries leaders and in response nearly a thousand CEOs and American mayors vowed to keep fighting climate change, even without the federal government s help. At the same time, Mr Trump also increased the US defence budget and recently requested a troop surge for Afghanistan while proposing dramatic cuts to diplomatic functions at the State Department.

These may seem like unrelated issues but as Francesco Femia, President of the Washington-based Center for Climate and Security, reminded The Independent: the Pentagon has, since at least as far back as 2003, taken climate change seriously. At least four of Mr Trump s top military counsel: Defence Secretary James Mattis5, Assistant Defence Secretary Lucian Niemeyer, Secretary of the Navy Richard V Spencer, and Vice Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Paul Selva have all reaffirmed the connection, according to Mr Femia. Even the 2014 Quadrennial Defence Review, done ahead of the December 2015 Paris Agreement6, stated that climate change will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental, political instability, and social tensions conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.

However, the Trump administration s seemingly conflicting policies makes it appear as if it does not see the connection . In the latest draft of the NDAA however, there is hope that Congress does. In June 2017, the House voted in the Langevin Amendment to the NDAA in what Mr Femia called the most significant bipartisan action on climate change in about a decade. The Amendment, named after Congressman Jim Langevin of the Armed Services Committee, would require the Defence Secretary to provide a report to Congress detailing ten military bases or installations in each service that are facing a threat from climate change within the next 20 years- specifically sea level rise, erosion, drought, increased frequency of natural disasters.

If passed in the Senate it would also require a discussion of the climate-change related effects…including the increase in the frequency of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief missions and the theatre campaign plans, contingency plans . France trolls Trump by annotating White House video about the Paris Agreement

Ohio University Professor Geoff Dabelko told the Wilson Center s New Security Beat blog that the bipartisan support garnered by the Langevin amendment7 is just the first step in a process to heal the political divide on climate change.

The security community does not have the luxury to add or drop threats to security when control of Congress or the White House changes hands, he noted. He explained, however, that this the exact opposite of what the Trump administration has been demonstrating the last seven months.

Part of the criticism of the Langevin amendment was that focusing on climate change – the vast body of science which even Mr Trump s head of the Environmental Protection Agency Scott Pruitt and Energy Secretary Rick Perry have called into question – would detract from national security properties. As Representative Liz Cheney – daughter of former Vice President Dick Cheney – said during the House floor debate: There is no evidence that climate change causes war…North Korea is not developing nuclear tipped ICBMs because the climate s changing . ISIS and al Qaeda are not attacking the West because of the weather.

However, that may not be entirely true though academic researchers8 are still arguing over this climate-conflict connection – particularly when it concerns the sequence of drought, food insecurity, migration, and an outbreak of conflict over more scarce resources. Republican Representative Scott Perry tried and failed to pass an amendment that essentially said enough federal agencies address climate change that the Defence Department should not be concerned with it. Several of his party colleagues noted however that the Langevin Amendment is simply a report and information about potential threats is not detrimental.

Neil Bhatiya, a researcher at the Center for a New American Security, also argued against Ms Cheney and Mr Perry s statements when it comes to focusing on one type of security threat. He told The Independent that the military establishment is capable of both responding to immediate threats like Isis, the Taliban, and North Korea while simultaneously preparing for future threats like social and political instability arising from climate change impacts. Mr Bhatiya said that though anything is possible in this political climate, he feels there are more pressing political issues that are far more controversial surrounding this year s NDAA that the climate change amendment will be safe from being taken out of a Senate draft.

Given Mr Trump s proposed cuts to the US Coast Guard9, the maritime security agency which is also tasked with ocean preservation, some experts fear it could still be part of the debate. Mr Trump has repeatedly expressed his commitment to the US coal and manufacturing industries, specifically the workers in those fields. Coupled with messaging that addressing climate change would have a negative economic impact and several EPA and State Department scientific advisors resigning or being pushed out – political pressure to not include the Langevin amendment or similar language on climate change could mount.

It had done so in the most recent iteration of the healthcare debate, with many Republican Senators initially speaking out against the Trump administration. However, save for a few, they fell into party line and voted with Mr Trump. One saving grace may be the deteriorated relationship between Senators Mitch McConnell, John McCain, Lindsay Graham, and Jeff Flake – all of whom have been on the receiving end of Mr Trump s public, Twitter and private ire according to reports.

The fact that Chief of Staff John Kelly has been involved in previous Defence Department efforts to understand climate impacts as the former Commander-in-Chief of Southern Command may ultimately be encouraging on the front, as well Mr Bhatiya said.

Of course, even with Mr Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson10 s previous comments regarding the need to address climate change, Mr Trump still withdrew the US from the Paris accord. Mr Femia pointed out that the report required by the Langevin Amendment would also highlight how the civilian communities – both in the US and abroad – are affected by climate change, a selling point for some Senators.

If this Administration is serious about improving American infrastructure, and supporting our military, it will have to be serious about the climate resilience of that infrastructure which is not limited to just military bases, Mr Femia said. For the time being, Mr Trump and his surrogates have yet to confirm whether the President actually believes in climate change, a separate issue from whether he thinks federal funding should address the problem.

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Anti-fracker targeted security chief

An anti-fracking protestor targeted Cuadrilla s security chief at the Little Plumpton shale gas site, a court heard. David Logan was among protesters who made vile comments about him and challenged the security manager to a fight via messages on Facebook. Logan asked the security boss to meet him for a bare-knuckle fight and called him an obscene name. In a victim s personal statement to a court the security manager stated he and his family had been harassed and that he and his family had had to reset their internet privacy settings.

The security manager had also installed CCTV at his address because of the threats and police had placed a vulnerable marker on his home. Unemployed Logan, 37, of Wensleydale Avenue, Grange Park, Blackpool, pleaded guilty to sending a threatening message by social media . He was sentenced to a 12 weeks community order with a tagged curfew from 9pm to 8am and ordered to pay 100 compensation to the security manager with 45 costs plus 85 victims surcharge by Blackpool magistrates. Presiding magistrate, Roger Merry, told him: People do not seem to understand the fear and trepidation it puts the victims in when things are posted online. We view this offence very seriously. You put this gentleman and his family in fear.

Logan had previous convictions for a malicious communication offence against the police. When interviewed by police Logan talked about being against the fracking process for shale gas. He said he would have fought the security manager if he had turned up. Gary McAnulty, defending, said his client was a man who did daft things when he was drunk. He was curbing his use of alcohol and no longer used social media, he told the court.

Security alert closes Northern Ireland primary school

  • Security alert closes Northern Ireland primary school

    Police have evacuated a primary school in Northern Ireland because of a security alert.

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Police have evacuated a primary school in Northern Ireland because of a security alert. A suspicious object was found at the gates of St Paul’s Primary School, in Irvinestown, Co Fermanagh .

as parents were dropping off their children.

Condemning those responsible, Ulster Unionist MLA Rosemary Barton said: “It is disgraceful in today s society that people want to put the lives of children at risk, or even disrupt their daily routine and education.

“The mindset of such individuals is something that is not wanted within our society, the community should not give any support to these people, indeed they should go further and report them to the authorities.”

UUP councillor Diana Armstrong said: “Sadly there have been a number of incidents in the Irvinestown area recently, I have no idea if they are all linked, but would encourage the public to support the police in these matters.

“I trust this matter will be dealt with as speedily as possible by the security services and that the children involved will not be traumatised.”

Drivers are advised local diversions are in place at Church Street and at the junction of Lisnarick Road and Tullylammy Road.

Belfast Telegraph Digital


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