President Obama, in his Dr. Jekyll mode when it comes to climate change, has been advancing one of my favorite arguments on the issue: that it is a threat to national security. This isn't so much strictly true — our armed forces or cities are not under enemy fire — as a good way of shaking people out of the common idea that climate change is some marginal environmentalist issue. On the contrary, it's up there with the economy in importance.
As Greg Sargent reports, Obama brought up the idea in a speech yesterday before a graduating class of Coast Guard cadets, saying that the "urgent need to combat and adapt to climate change" would shape their whole careers. He's definitely right about that!
But the problem with his framing is that it does not remotely square with his actions. Only a few days ago Mr. Hyde emerged, with the Obama administration announcing preliminary approval for Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean off of Alaska. If we treated climate change as an actual security threat, that is not the kind of policy we would approve.
McKenzie Funk, who wrote a long, riveting piece detailing how Shell wrecked an exploratory drilling rig in the Arctic in 2012, has an interesting follow-up article explaining how Shell's team of futurists think about climate change and oil:
They were based on what Bentham called "three hard truths": That energy demand, thanks in part to booming China and India, would only rise; that supply would struggle to keep up; and that climate change was dangerously real. Shell’s internal research showed that alternative energy systems — wind, solar, carbon capture — would take decades to make just a 1-percent dent in our massive global energy system, even if they grew at 25 percent a year. [New York Times Magazine]