Climate change isn’t a theory. It’s a fact.

And it’s not just scientists around the world who know it. The United States military recognizes it – and realizes that it poses a serious challenge to our national security. That’s why our military is already testing, researching, and adapting operations to succeed in these rapidly changing environments.

A changing climate has had and will continue to have hugely disruptive effects not only on the environment, but also on migration patterns, economies, disease vectors, and political unrest around the world. All of these dramatically affect our country’s safety, security and well-being.

We are already experiencing these effects: The Earth is getting warmer. Eight of the last ten summers have each been the hottest in history, and last summer was the hottest ever recorded. Sea levels are rising. This will affect massive numbers of people who live on the world’s coastlines, creating climate refugees, economic challenges, epidemics and pandemics, and geopolitical upheavals on a scale never before seen. Climate change is coming and we can’t afford to look the other way.

Our naval bases around the globe are seeing the consequences now. Ten times a year, floods cripple our Norfolk Naval Base. Key West Naval Air Station – where I learned to air-to-air dogfight in the F/A-18 – will be almost completely under water in the next 70 years. Weather patterns are creating hurricanes, floods, and fires in ways we’ve never seen before and that will both affect and in some cases demand military responses. 

Large parts of the world, including the Middle East, Africa, and Southeast Asia, are undergoing dramatic desertification at an alarming rate, meaning less food will be produced and large migrations will occur as people will be forced out of the lands they occupy today. In the 20th century, we fought wars over values or economic conflicts; in the 21st century, it will be over food, water and resources.

Another reason climate change is a national security concern is its huge impact on our economy. Rising sea levels will alter global shipping patterns, severe weather will affect the ability of goods to be produced and transported, and markets, particularly for energy, are shifting as nations work to address and mitigate these changes.

All of this is why the Trump Administration’s decision to slash research on sustainable, clean sources of energy is so wrong-headed and concerns me – and should concern every patriotic American.

Both from a security and an economic standpoint, we need to invest in renewable energy. Our military is already one of the biggest proponents of renewable energy research. Why? Because it saves lives – and makes more strategic sense – if forward operating bases overseas do not have to be constantly refueled with traditional forms of energy like petroleum, which require vulnerable ground supply lines and are subject to potentially volatile markets.

Both militarily and economically, the US must be a world leader in renewables investment or we will cede the future energy industry – and our national security – to China, which is developing in this area at a rapid pace.
America should be leading the world in responding to climate change, not running away. The Paris Climate Accords is a global agreement to recognize climate change and pursue a call to action to mitigate its detrimental effects. When President Trump pulled out of the agreement, he not only made an irresponsible move given the trajectory of the global climate, but also severely lessened our power in world leadership. He signified a lack of responsibility and seriousness in protecting our world.  

Simply put, “America first” doesn’t work regarding climate change because we don’t live in a bubble. By removing ourselves from the Paris Agreement, we not only turn our back on the rest of the world, but we are turning our back on our own people. We owe it to our fellow Americans to take every measure possible in mitigating the effects of climate change. 

But renewable energy research isn’t just something we need to do to respond to a threat – whether security, economic, or environmental – it’s something we should invest in as an opportunity. Renewable energy is both cleaner and more economical in the long-run, and that’s why it has tremendous potential for economic growth and job opportunities across America.  

This is especially true for Kentucky. As I discuss in detail in my forthcoming economic plan, Kentucky’s energy future need not be an either/or choice between coal and sustainable sources. We can provide support for our coal communities and boost coal consumption here in Kentucky by using local coal-generated electricity for electric vehicles while we work to transition the energy infrastructure and expertise that we already have to renewables like wind and solar.  

Furthermore, renewable energy represents an opportunity not a threat for our state:  Kentucky can become a leader in expanding solar and wind production, which will both reduce electricity costs for our families and bring energy-related jobs back to Central Kentucky. We can achieve this in part by leveraging our military bases as national hubs for renewables research, and expanding – not cutting – federal investment in this research.  

Because of our location, Central Kentucky can also continue to be a leader in the budding logistics industry by investing in needed electric-vehicle infrastructure, which will itself help produce additional jobs in vehicle manufacturing and energy provision.  Such strategies will help contribute to the mitigation of climate change – but they, just as importantly, will help grow our economy and create jobs: not jobs somewhere far away, jobs right here in Kentucky.

In sum, we have the tools right here in Central Kentucky to be leaders not only in the coal economy of the 20th Century, but also in the renewable energy economy of the 21st Century. Renewables research is an opportunity for Kentucky, and we need someone to go to Washington and fight so that when the future economy comes, our district will be its home, just as it was for the energy economy of the past.
The environment shouldn’t be a partisan, political issue. This is a global issue, an American issue, and an issue for Kentucky. It’s about the future of our planet for our children and generations to come. We need leaders that get it.