By: Abigail Kittredge
One of the most significant and controversial crises facing Americans today is climate change. Despite a minority of skeptics, climate change has become a widely accepted occurrence. Until recently, few governments were focusing on decreasing their country’s emissions of greenhouse gases. The harsh reality is that no single country can alone slow the ill effects of climate change. Cohesion among governments across continents is essential to moving toward a greener, more sustainable world. While climate change is most certainly an international dilemma, progress begins with each individual country’s own policies to decrease its emissions. President Trump’s decision to remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement and repeal the EPA’s Clean Power Plan damages U.S. stability and imposes a grave danger to national security. National security measures will need to be substantially altered to protect Americans from the inevitable threats that will face the country if President Trump’s rash decisions to halt climate change policy are upheld. States must take charge and work to reverse President Trump’s policy decision to protect the country from the harmful realities of climate change.
To impact the effects of global warming, the U.S. needs to work with foreign nations. Without international allegiance to combat the effects of climate change, the U.S.’s national security will be threatened. U.S. global leadership helped unite governments to take action against climate change. U.S. passage of the Clean Power Plan encouraged other countries to join the Paris Climate Agreement and cut back on their emissions. President Trump’s announcement to repeal the Clean Power Plan and remove the U.S. from the Paris Agreement unless the agreement is renegotiated has hindered the future positive effects of the agreement and hurt relationships with allies. Germany has expressed concern regarding U.S.-German relations following the U.S.’s recent decisions; accusing President Trump of “fundamentally question[ing] the ideas and institutions of the liberal international order.” The U.S. may lose influence on the international stage and on the allegiance of its allies, which may threaten national security when conflict arises.
If human contributions to climate change are not substantially decreased, the U.S. economy will suffer. Climate change is expected to create more frequent extreme weather events, in addition to broader climatological effects, like sea level rise. Just this year, two Category 4 hurricanes, Hurricane Irma and Maria, devastated parts of the U.S. and Puerto Rico. In addition to hurricanes, increased temperatures contributed to massive wildfires across California. These natural disasters are a taste of the significant financial burdens to come from stronger and more frequent natural disasters. The estimated costs of the storms affecting Florida, Texas, and other regions will be a total of $290 billion. Along with natural disasters, climate change is associated with sea-level rise. Flooding caused by sea levels rising will impact the economy by destroying U.S. coastal military bases, infrastructure, and ports and crops. For example, it is estimated that by 2100, sea levels will have risen by three feet. This would threaten 128 coastal bases, valued at $100 billion. Also, according to scientists, long-term infrastructure projects will be affected by more frequent and serious floods. Additionally, as the supply of vital resources from crops and ports decrease, the U.S. and other countries relying on these resources will see surging food prices.
The controversy over the Clean Power Plan arises from Federalism. Critics of the Clean Power Plan allege the plan unconstitutionality expands the Clean Air Act’s authority by usurping state autonomy. Critics argue the tenth amendment does not allow the federal government to control the state’s economies to the extent the Clean Power Plan would require. Critics also allege the Plan’s “unachievable” CO2 limits would force states to shut down coal plants.
Yet, not only does the plan permit states the autonomy to choose how to reduce its emissions, but also the U.S. Supreme Court declared in Massachusetts v. Environmental Protection Agency that EPA regulation of carbon dioxide is required by the Clean Air Act. In 2015, twenty-five states filed a motion to intervene and defend the Clean Power Plan citing the interests of their states’ security. These states noted the Clean Power Plan helps to preserve the public coastlines and infrastructure, and manage financial burdens brought upon by disasters.
Additionally, under the Constitution, the federal government has the power to regulate interstate commerce. This power permits the regulation of CO2 emissions that inevitably cross state boundaries. Supporters of the Plan argue the federal government needs the authority to regulate CO2 emissions because the effects of the emissions threaten U.S. citizens and the world. The Clean Power Plan does not unconstitutionally expand regulatory authority of the EPA but instead reinforces many states’ policies, U.S. Supreme Court decisions, and Constitutionally delegated interstate commerce power to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. The Supreme Court issued a stay on the Plan in 2016 after it was challenged by numerous states. The DC Circuit Court postponed rendering a decision until November of this year following President Trump’s request for “indefinite abeyance” while the administration considered repealing the Plan.
President Trump’s recent policy reversal on climate change negatively impacts the security of the U.S. both in the short and long term. The immediate effect of this policy change is a loss of accountability. Other countries, including allies, will lose respect for U.S. promises to reach goals. U.S. influence on the world stage will be compromised. The long-term effect is an economic burden. More frequent storms will harm infrastructure, business, and access to resources. The longer the U.S. postpones taking steps to limit human contribution to global climate change, the worse off the country and world will be. Expensive and exhaustive national security measures will need to be implemented to respond to accruing national instability if the ill effects of climate change are not dealt with. The Clean Power Plan and the Paris Climate Agreement are necessary measures to ensure U.S. stability both domestically, and internationally.