Not every issue facing the nation is a matter of national security. This is the case with cap and trade. Proponents of cap and trade for national security argue that global warming will result in environmental degradation which, in turn, will produce resource scarcity and, finally, instability that will lead to conflict. If that is not enough for you, they also want to see the United States reduce its dependence on foreign oil, arguing that this makes the United States vulnerable to shortages created by unpredictable events overseas, particularly in the Middle East, or the behavior of rogue regimes.
The relationship between global warming and conflict is, at best, a third order consideration. As one observer tried to explain the logic, climate change “may not directly cause a war but it may make people more unhappy and that unhappiness can lead to instability that does lead to war.” Proponents of the cap-and-trade-as-national-security view fail to consider the possible alternative strategies available for dealing with unhappiness of others, including more military power. Scarcity may even make conflict less likely as nations and peoples focus on more immediate concerns than the ethnic, political and religious issues that used to result in conflict. We have enough first-order security issues to worry about, so let’s not add third-order causes to the list too swiftly.
A related point is that cap and trade is predicted by a number of analysts to have negative consequences for global growth, transportation, food production and development. Poverty and underdevelopment are the two greatest causes of instability and conflicts. Increasing wealth is the best means of creating both the motivation and means to deal with environmental issues. Limiting economic growth, particularly for countries with high population growth, is a recipe for instability and even conflict.
The problem of oil dependence is really a problem of the instabilities that plague the Persian Gulf region. But the world’s dependence on Middle East oil is also that region’s dependence on the world for food, manufactured goods and even in many cases petroleum products. Also, the oil has tended to flow regardless of circumstances; remember the nine-year Iran-Iraq war.
But let us accept the argument that dependence on foreign oil is a serious and immediate national security threat. It follows that the nation needs an immediate and full response. That should include renewables but must involve also better exploitation of existing assets (coal, natural gas, oil) and nuclear. The United States has the technologies to burn coal cleanly, drill for oil without causing ecological damage and exploit uranium in ways that reduce waste products. Indeed, it makes no sense for the United States to recognize the right of all nations to the use of nuclear energy for peaceful purposes and deny it to ourselves.
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