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May 10, 2021

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Guest Column:

Paris pact retreat will affect military

Thursday afternoon in the Rose Garden, President Donald Trump announced his decision to pull the United States out of the Paris Agreement on climate change.

Unanimously adopted by nearly 200 countries in 2015, the Paris Agreement was a historic step forward in the fight against climate change. Every signatory from nations both big and small, developing and developed, volunteered to do their fair share to reduce the harmful effects of climate change by cutting their carbon emissions. To hold each other accountable, they also agreed to reconvene every five years to raise their standards and publicly disclose progress.

By withdrawing from this global agreement, Trump — and his allies in Congress who support him — are making a catastrophic choice out of ignorance and shortsightedness.

American leadership made the Paris Agreement happen. If we back out now, we lose credibility and will face greater challenges to forging progress on critical security and diplomatic issues ranging from terrorism to trade. Plus, countries will no longer view the U.S. in our traditional role of leading nations in creating strong solutions to tough problems. Indeed, China and the European Union are already announcing a new alliance for cleaner energy sources.

We are, essentially, starting to look like a country that goes it alone — even worse, by turning tail when the going gets tough.

And if we do turn our backs on the agreement, the ones paying highest price will be by our men and women in uniform. After all, climate change isn’t a scientific, economic or health issue, but a national security one too; the Department of Defense even describes climate change as a “threat multiplier” since it complicates the jobs and threatens the lives of our troops. For instance, more frequent extreme weather events mean more requests for humanitarian aid around the globe, and droughts and resource shortages end up strengthening the extremist groups our troops face on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, U.S. troops also are on the front lines defending the very resources contributing to these devastating effects of climate change. In the Strait of Hormuz, for example, the U.S. Navy spends $84 billion each year protecting 20 percent of the world’s oil as it is shipped through the strait’s waters. Securing oil supply lines like these around the globe puts the lives of servicemen and women at risk — to say nothing of the operational risks of using flammable liquid and gas fuels in active war zones.

Essentially, if we do not take steps to move away from fossil fuels of the past and toward clean energy of the future, we will be condemning our allies, our children and our loved ones in uniform to an increasingly dangerous world.

As a native Las Vegan, I fly home regularly and see firsthand how much water Lake Mead loses. The Paris Agreement is not something that only affects far-off lands and peoples, but also all of us at home. Millions of Nevadans are at risk of living where water resources are increasingly becoming more scarce, and this will be exacerbated by climate change.

So as Trump tries to tear the United States away from the agreement, we must stand strong and a safer, more secure future for our children who will have to live in the world we choose to leave behind.

Samuel Schumach is a former Obama administration official and political partner of Truman National Security Project. Views expressed are his own.

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