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Trump Executive Order May Roll Back Military’s Climate Policies

President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis speak at the Inauguration ...

Photo by Pablo Martinez Monsivais AP

Above: President Trump and Defense Secretary James Mattis speak at the Inauguration Day parade on Jan. 20. Trump heads to the Pentagon on Friday and is expected to speak with Mattis and the military brass about his campaign pledge for a stepped-up war against the Islamic State.

The U.S. military has been working on projects ranging from solar power to assessing the impact of climate change on global conflicts. Advocates worry those programs may be in jeopardy.

In recent years, the military has often led the federal government’s response to climate change. Advocates around San Diego worry what will happen after President Donald Trump unveiled plans to roll back executive orders signed during the Barack Obama administration.

Reno Harnish is a former U.S. ambassador who also ran the Center for Environment and National Security, Scripps Institution of Oceanography. He said it took a long time to convince leadership in the military that climate change was a national security issue. He said he worries that consensus will unravel if leaders cannot even use the term "climate change."

“I think naming the name is important, and I stressed that as one of the first impacts of the loss of a unifying idea of national security and climate change,” he said.

Video by Katie Schoolov

A retired rear admiral who is now executive director of the Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, Len Hering Sr., said the Department of Defense was looking at climate change before the Obama administration took office. While he is concerned about the impact of Trump's executive order, he does not believe that work will be easily undone.

“While this particular administration is backing away from the climate change industry, on a global scale, everyone is marching towards it because everyone is seeing the consequences of what’s happening,” Hering said.

Naval planners are looking at how drought and other disasters lead to conflicts around the globe. They are also planning for the impact of rising sea level on bases worldwide, Hering said.

Photo by Matthew Bowler

Retired Admiral Len Hering Sr., is executive director Center for Sustainable Energy in San Diego, March 29, 2017

Advocates for climate change policies often point to Defense Secretary James Mattis. In his written statements to the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearings, Mattis talked about his concerns.

“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today,” Mattis wrote.

Though he did not mention climate change publicly during his hearings, many in the environmental community hope the secretary of defense will push back on the administration’s position on climate change in the coming weeks.

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