Trump Downgrades National Security Threat of Climate Change (Or Does He?)

Ahead of a planned speech on national security scheduled for Monday, President Donald Trump has reportedly, according to The Federalist, decided to remove climate change from a list national security threats, reversing the policy of the Obama administration.

Apparently The Federalist got hold of a draft of the National Security Strategy, set to be released Monday, that indicated Trump’s desire to place an emphasis on striking a more appropriate balance between economic concerns and environmental concerns as they relate to energy policy and national security.

“Climate policies will continue to shape the global energy system,” a draft of the National Security Strategy slated to be released on Monday said. “U.S. leadership is indispensable to countering an anti-growth, energy agenda that is detrimental to U.S. economic and energy security interests. Given future global energy demand, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to power their economies and lift their people out of poverty.”

The Obama administration had likened climate change and environmental concerns to threats posed from terrorist groups and required federal agencies “to consider the effects of climate change in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans,” The Federalist reported.

“In some ways, [climate change] is akin to the problem of terrorism and ISIL,” Obama said at climate talks in Paris in 2015. During a weekly address, Obama said “Today, there is no greater threat to our planet than climate change.”

This comes on the heels of what climate change proponents had undoubtedly considered a win just this week. In the text of the National Defense Authorization Act which was signed by Trump on Tuesday, it was clear (at least to those hoping for it) that the Trump administration planned to make climate change a part of their approach to defense policy.

In the bill, current and former top US military brass attest to the national security threat of a rapidly changing climate. By signing the bill, Trump also ordered a report on “vulnerabilities to military installations” that climate change could cause in the next 20 years.

The bill’s acknowledgement and anticipation of climate change as an urgent threat contrasts sharply the Trump administration’s past denial. The administration has scrubbed mentions of climate change from agency websites, blocked federal scientists from presenting research on the topic, and top Trump officials—like energy secretary Rick Perry and environment chief Scott Pruitt—have stated their denial of the mainstream scientific consensus that human activity is warming the planet.

So it would appear that Trump is prepared to downgrade the official threat of climate change to the overall national security of the country, but reserve the right to study the effects — real or imagined — of climate change on the defense infrastructure.

Which looks a lot like going from just talking about something in broad, meaningless terms to actually mandating a study of what affect, if any, climate fluctuations play in the ability of the nation to protect herself.

It’s the difference between talking a good game and playing one.