Like the Olympics and leap year, the Quadrennial Defense Review comes at us every four years. A big-picture look by the US military at the threats they see out there, the QDR [.pdf] is a broad document, but you can read in it just how big the military thinks its mission is (global dominance, really). As part of that mission, the military tries to find a way to reduce the threats it sees, but what do you do about dirty air that we all create? You can’t go and bomb the highways to stop the cars from polluting.
The QDR is a straight shooter when it comes to climate change. It warns of devastation to “homes, land, and infrastructure” thanks to climate change, as well as threats to water and food supplies. The QDR says:
Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. … The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.
Note the complete lack of political equivocating. Climate change is a serious problem, the Pentagon says. That’s a refreshing change from most of what comes out of DC, but it is awfully similar to what the QDR said in the 2010 version.
There is no mention of bombing highways, but the QDR does say the Department of Defense, “will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change.” As we’ve seen in the past, the DoD has expressed an interest in plug-in hybrid and electric vehicles, but those purchases may have been made for more financial reasons. As clear as the DoD is on the affects of climate change, it is also familiar with paying up to $400 for a gallon of gas in certain situations, so any reduction in fuel use can be good for the air and the defense budget.
We can expect this to have the same effect on Congress as acid rain rolling off a Confederate tin roof. Tea Bag Republicans and Blue Dog Democrats dedicate about as much time to sound science as the average drug dealer does to reading up on the dangers of hydrocodone.
Still – this is another tool for the oh-so-slowly expanding number of courageous progressive voices who’ve managed to tuck into some corner of elected officialdom. Who knows? One of these days a significant number of Americans may wander into the pages, page-views or news segments that make it onto cable TV or a corner of the Web that actually considers science of more use than a rain dance in Tucson. They may even be old enough to vote and living in a state where that is still permitted.