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Are Ocean Issues a Matter of National Security?

Posted On May 4, 2012 by

Which government agency leader was expressing concern about climate change, melting Arctic ice and the need for the Law of the Sea Treaty? Was your first guess Secretary of Interior? EPA Administrator? NOAA? How about the Secretary of Defense?

At a speech at an Environmental Defense Fund event, Secretary Leon Panetta discussed how several conservation issues (which also happen to be Ocean Conservancy priorities) are also national security issues:

Our mission at the Department is to secure this nation against threats to our homeland and to our people. In the 21st Century, the reality is that there are environmental threats which constitute threats to our national security. For example, the area of climate change has a dramatic impact on national security: rising sea levels, to severe droughts, to the melting of the polar caps, to more frequent and devastating natural disasters all raise demand for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief.

I was pointing out the other day that with the polar cap melting, we now have problems with regard to who claims the area in the polar region.  And very frankly, one of the things I hope we get a chance to work on is to finally get the United States of America to approve the Law of the Seas treaty, which has been hanging out there for so long. We are the only industrialized nation that has not approved that treaty. It’s time that we did that.

Also in the speech Secretary Panetta explains the Defense Department’s history of being environmental stewards.  It’s important to consider all the future consequences of the ways we we are impacting our ocean today.