Crucial national security questions that won’t be asked on debate night

    An Illinois farmer shows his drought- and heat-stricken corn while chopping it down for feed. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman

    An Illinois farmer shows his drought- and heat-stricken corn while chopping it down for feed. (AP Photo/Seth Perlman

    Today, I’ll simply express my fervent hope that Trump and Clinton are compelled on Monday night to address one of the most urgent national security issues of this or any era: Climate change.

    The advance stories about the first presidential debate are already flooding in — who will “win?” what memorable moment will the cable neworks replay ad nauseum? should Trump be fitted with an electric collar that zaps him when he lies? — but Monday morning strikes me as the timeliest window for a Big Think. So I’ll do it then. Today, I’ll simply express my fervent hope that Trump and Clinton are compelled on Monday night to address one of the most urgent national security issues of this or any era:

    Climate change.

    Matt Lauer’s recent “Commander-in-Chief Forum” was shameful in all the ways I discussed here, most notably his service as Trump’s doormat, but arguably worst of all was his failure to ask the candidates about climate change. Which just so happens to rank as a dire threat to America’s national security — according to the Pentagon, intelligence leaders, and a growing army of senior military experts.

    Deniers and trolls can afford to sound like fools. The people entrusted with our security have no such luxury. It was the Bush administration, in 2008, that issued the first major warning, with the release of the National Intelligence Assessment on the National Security Implications of Global Climate Change. The report, which acknowledged the fact that climate change is real (duh, ya think?), warned that rising temperatures and rising sea levels will likely trigger mass migrations and fights over natural resources (“water wars”) — which in turn will trigger political instability in global hot spots.

    The Pentagon has twice weighed in on these issues, in great detail, with “defense reviews” in 2010 and 2014. The latter report says:

    As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. 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.

    And just last week — not that anybody noticed; we were too busy focusing on Trump’s old and new birther lies — the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan group of senior military and national security experts, released a “consensus statement on climate change” that outlined, among other things, the growing threat to coastal U.S. military bases from rising seas.

    The group, which includes prominent alumni of the Reagan and Bush adminisrations, stated: “There’s absolutely nothing political about climate change. It’s a security risk, it makes other security risks worse, and we need to do something about it.” Geoffrey Kemp, a former Reagan national security advisor, said: “As General Douglas MacArthur warned about the dangers of unpreparedness for war, we don’t want to be too late.”

    And because the climate risks “are accelerating in their likelihood and severity,” warned retired Navy Rear Admiral David Titley, “the next administration, whomever is elected, has the duty and obligation as Commander in Chief to manage this risk in a comprehensive manner.”

    With those warnings in mind — from military experts, not tree-huggers — let’s compare what Clinton and Trump are saying about climate change. Scientific American magazine assembled a list of science questions and sent them to the candidates. The answers on climate change, in section 3, were quite revealing. I’ll give you the gist.

    Here’s what Clinton said: “When it comes to climate change, the science is crystal clear. Climate change is an urgent threat and a defining challenge of our time, and its impacts are already being felt at home and around the world.”

    Here’s what Trump said: “There is still much that needs to be investigated in the field of ‘climate change.'”

    I loved how Trump put climate change in air quotes. Because he has long insisted that it’s not real. Back in 2012, working his thumbs on Twitter, he suggested that “the concept of global warming was created by and for the Chinese in order to make U.S. manufacturing non-competitive.” A year later, “GLOBAL WARMING a total hoax!” A year after that, “GLOBAL WARMING bullshit has got to stop.”

    So. This brings us to the first presidential debate.

    How awesome it would be, on Monday night, if moderator Lester Holt were to ask a question like this:  “Mr. Trump, the Pentagon and other leading military experts say that climate change is a serious and growing threat to America’s national security, and that the next president will need to deal with it. Why should we entrust the job of Commander in Chief to someone who dismisses climate change as a hoax?”

    Wait, I’ve got another one: “Mr. Trump, earlier this year the Pentagon announced a comprehensive preparedness plan for tackling climate change – assessing how the environmental crisis will affect everything, from meteorology to military construction. But in June, your fellow Republicans in the U.S. House voted to block the Pentagon from spending the money to launch this plan. Did Republicans do the right thing when they stopped the military from addressing this threat to our national security?”

    But I have little confidence that the talking fraud will be suitably confronted. Thirty minutes will supposedly be devoted to national security, and terrorism will take up the time. I’d be happy to just hear this:

    “Mr. Trump, do you believe in climate science, or don’t you?”

    I’ll take this opportunity to resurrect my favorite climate change cartoon (thank you, Garry Trudeau). A troll — most likely a Trumpkin — goes to the doctor …

    Follow me on Twitter, @dickpolman1, and on Facebook.

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