National Security and Foreign Policy Leaders Warn of Climate Change Threat, Call for U.S. Leadership

Retired Military Leaders, Senators, Governors, Foreign Policy and National Security Officials Make Bipartisan Call for Global Climate Action

Washington, DC—Forty-eight national security and foreign policy leaders urged the highest levels of American government and business to “think past tomorrow,” and take domestic and international action to fight climate change in a statement released today, which will also appear as a full page ad in today’s Wall Street Journal.

Signers of the statement include former officials such as: Secretaries of Defense, Chuck Hagel, William Cohen and Leon Panetta; Secretaries of State Madeleine Albright and George Shultz; National Security Advisors, Sandy Berger and Bud McFarlane; Senators Olympia Snowe and Richard Lugar; New Jersey Governor and Chair of the 9/11 Commission Thomas Kean; and Retired US Army Chief of Staff, General Gordon R. Sullivan. They joined more than three-dozen other high-level officials in calling for US leadership in the global effort to tackle the urgent and complex problem of climate change. All the signers are listed at the bottom of this release.

“There is no longer any daylight between national security concerns and climate change,” said former Governor (R-NJ) and Chair of the 9/11 Commission Thomas Kean. “Combating climate change and protecting our national security are one and the same, and it’s imperative that lawmakers start treating our warming planet with the same urgency that they treat other security threats.”

Environmental destabilization associated with climate change exacerbates conditions that drive resource disputes and economic discontent. This has become an increasing concern for the military and intelligence communities. According to the statement:

The U.S. Department of Defense has defined climate change as a global threat multiplier – exacerbating instigators of conflict such as resource disputes, ethnic tensions, and economic discontent. Operationally, they see its potential to prevent access to their workforce, degrade the security of installations, impede training and readiness, and impair force capacity.

Security threats associated with climate change are already being observed. Climate change has been identified as a contributing factor in rising sociopolitical tension in Syria. The melting Arctic and its impact on America’s borders and relationship with Russia has become a top security priority for the U.S. Navy. Climate related crop failures and droughts in the Middle East and African Sahel are contributing to migration pressures within Europe.

“From a military standpoint we don’t look at climate security as a liberal/conservative or big government/little government issue. We see it as a phenomenon that will impact our ability to base, train, deploy, and operate,” said retired four-star General and Commander in Chief of Air Combat Command Ron Keys. “We have to account for it in an affordable and technically achievable way that accepts reasonable risk, but preserves our ability to execute our missions. We have to get this out of theology discussions into science and data discussions and start looking at the risk, how bad can it be, and what can we do. Time is wasting.”

The security community has long recognized that this is not a problem that can be solved with military action, nor can America succeed on its own. The statement highlights the need for allies:

American leaders must enlist international partners to ensure that all countries do their fair share. For twenty years, the U.S. has asserted that this is a global problem that will require global solutions. Now, with crucial actors like China, Brazil, and Mexico making earnest commitments, we have an opportunity to advance that approach.

To accompany the statement, the Partnership for a Secure America (PSA), a national nonprofit dedicated to advancing bipartisan action on critical national security and foreign policy challenges, will run ads in the Wall Street Journal and various online outlets.

The statement comes at a time when there are signs of decreasing partisan polarization around climate change. Earlier this year, numerous Republican Senators voted with Democrats in recognizing today’s climate challenge, two Republican Senators blocked an amendment that would have prevented US contributions to the Green Climate Fund, and a Republican House resolution has recently been introduced emphasizing the need to act on the immediate national security threat posed by climate change.

In early December, more than 190 countries will meet for a global climate summit in Paris. Leading up to the summit, a number of critical nations have announced commitments to address the climate challenge as part of a global effort, including China, Brazil, South Africa, Indonesia, Peru, Mexico and India, among others. In addition, numerous city and local state actors as well as international companies have come forward in a parallel effort to support an international climate agreement and implement local policies and practices to help keep warming under 2 degrees Celsius.

“This moment in diplomatic history is too important to sacrifice to partisanship,” said former Secretary of State Madeleine Albright. “We have an opportunity for a real breakthrough on US/China climate policy that has important implications for the broader relationship.”

The statement was signed by: 

Madeleine Albright,Secretary of State 1997-2001

Birch Bayh, Jr.,US Senator (D-IN) 1963-81

Samuel Berger,National Security Advisor 1997-2001

Zbigniew Brzezinski,National Security Advisor 1977-81

Nicholas Burns,Undersecretary of State 2005-08

William Cohen,Secretary of Defense 1997-2001, US Senator (R-ME) 1979-97

Norm Coleman, USSenator (R-MN) 2003-09

John C. Danforth,US Senator (R-MO) 1976-95, US Ambassador to the UN 2004-05

Bob Ehrlich,Governor (R-MD) 2003-07

Thomas Fingar,Chairman, National Intelligence, Council 2005-08

GEN Douglas Fraser,USAF (Ret.), Commander, US Southern Command (SOUTHCOM)

Marc Grossman,Undersecretary of State 2001-05

Carlos M. Gutierrez,Secretary of Commerce 2005-09

Chuck Hagel,Secretary of Defense 2013-15,US Senator (R-NE) 1997-2009

Lee Hamilton, USCongressman (D-IN) 1965-99, Vice Chair, 9/11 Commission

Gary Hart, USSenator (D-CO) 1975-87

Rita Hauser,Chair, International Peace Institute, 1992-present

Carla Hills, U.S.Trade Representative 1989-93

GEN Donald J. Hoffman,USAF (Ret.)¸Commander, US Air Force Materiel Command 2008-12

Nancy Kassebaum-Baker,US Senator (R-KS) 1978-97

Thomas Kean,Governor (R-NJ) 1989-20, Chair, 9/11 Commission

GEN Ron Keys,USAF (Ret.), Commander in Chief, Air Combat Command 2005-07

Carl Levin, USSenator (D-MI) 1979-2015

Joseph Lieberman,US Senator (I-CT) 1989-2013

ADM Samuel J.Locklear III, USN (Ret.) Commander, US Pacific Command (PACOM) 2012-15

ADM James Loy,USC (Ret.), Deputy Secretary of Homeland Security 2003-05, US Coast Guard
Commandant 1998-2002

Richard Lugar, USSenator (R-IN) 1977-2013

VADM Mike McConnell,USN (Ret.), Director of National Intelligence 2007-09

Robert McFarlane,National Security Advisor 1983-85

Donald McHenry,US Ambassador to the UN 1979-81

Janet Napolitano,Secretary of Homeland Security 2009-13, Governor (D-AZ) 2003-09

Paul O’Neill,Secretary of the Treasury 2001-02

Leon Panetta,Secretary of Defense 2011-13

Henry M. Paulson,Jr., Secretary of the Treasury 2006-09

Thomas Pickering,Undersecretary of State 1997-2000

Mark S. Schweiker,Governor (R-PA) 2001-03

George Shultz,Secretary of State 1982-89

Gordon H. Smith,US Senator (R-OR) 1997-2009

Olympia Snowe, USSenator (R-ME) 1995-2013

Richard H. Solomon,President, US Institute of Peace 1993-2012

GEN Gordon R.Sullivan, US Army (Ret.), US Army 32nd Chief of Staff 1991-95

Frances Townsend,Homeland Security Advisor 2004-08

GEN Charles Wald,USAF (Ret.) Deputy Commander, US European Command (EUCOM) 2002-06

GEN Larry D. Welch,USAF (Ret.) US Air Force 12th Chief of Staff 1986-90

Christine ToddWhitman, Governor (R-NJ) 1994-2001, EPA Administrator 2001-03

Frank Wisner,Undersecretary of State 1992-93

R. James Woolsey,Director of Central Intelligence 1993-95, Chairman, Foundation for Defense of

GEN Anthony Zinni,USMC (Ret.), Commander in Chief, US Central Command (CENTCOM) 1997-2000


###Partnership for a Secure America (PSA) is a nonprofit founded by former U.S. Representative Lee Hamilton (D-IN) and the late former U.S. Senator Warren Rudman (R-NH) to advance bipartisanship on today’s critical national security and foreign policy challenges.

Click here for the full text of the statement.