Climate Change Jeopardizes All of Our Vital Interests

By Jessica Wells

Our country faces numerous threats to its national security. There’s terrorism, both domestic and foreign. North Korea’s growing nuclear arsenal and its erratic dictator should not be underestimated. Nor should we overlook the Iranian government’s support of proxy wars in the Middle East.

However, if we are talking about a national security threat in terms of the destruction of the United States and the American way of life, no threat is more urgent than climate change and the ensuing chaos it brings.

Placing climate change in the context of a national security threat might seem like a poor fit. This is an intangible, complex enemy. It doesn’t have a leadership structure that we can target, like al-Qaida. There are no stated goals to negotiate or counter. However, its effects are already harming American lives and interests.

As the Earth’s temperature rises, the number of extreme weather events has also increased. These episodes create chaos and instability in our country and around the world. The Union of Concerned Scientists website details 19 impacts from climate change, including longer wildfire seasons, coastal flooding, and more destructive hurricanes.

Examples in this country are not hard to find. In 2018 the Camp Fire devastated the town of Paradise, California, killing 86 people, many of them older Americans, and destroying 13,972 homes. Most of the town is still in ruins.

Hurricane Michael, an unusually violent Category 5 storm, leveled Mexico Beach on the Florida panhandle less than one year ago. In 2017 Hurricane Maria was responsible for the deaths of nearly 3,000 Americans in Puerto Rico.

In North Carolina we are familiar with the destructive power of hurricanes. In the past three years our state has been hit by two major hurricanes, one a Category 4 storm and the other a Category 5 storm. Each caused loss of life and catastrophic flooding. And here we go again: The 2019 Atlantic hurricane season began officially on June 1.

Climate change affects U.S. military readiness. A January Department of Defense report to Congress states, “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations.”

The Navy recently completed a biannual training exercise in the Arctic region, where warming temperatures are changing the strategic balance of power. Melting sea ice is allowing countries like Russia and China to increase their presence in the region, threatening American interests there.

To prepare for climate change impacts at military installations, the armed services have identified the bases that are most vulnerable to flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires and thawing of permafrost. One example is the Hampton Roads region in Virginia, which is home to several Navy installations. The report describes it as “very vulnerable to flooding caused by rising sea levels and land subsidence.”

The DoD report refers to climate change effects as “drivers of instability and factional conflict.” Competition for scarce resources is already causing conflict, upheaval, and migration. These trends pose significant security challenges for the United States.

The current influx of migrant families from Central America is a case-in-point. Many immigrants are fleeing not only violence and poverty, but also the effects of a changing climate. Unstable growing seasons have compromised the agricultural industry in parts of this region, destroying farmers’ livelihoods.

Despite this doom and gloom, plenty of reasons to be hopeful exist. Unlike the enemies our country has faced in the past, every American has the power to contribute to the fight against climate change.

The first thing to do is to arm yourself with information. Learn more about climate change through scientific, reputable sources. The Union of Concerned Scientists website that I mentioned above is a great place to start.

Next, contact your elected representatives, at the local, state and national levels, and let them know that climate change is important to you. Urge them to support the expansion of clean energy, like wind and solar power.

If you have the money, trade in your gasoline-dependent car for an electric or hybrid model.

Finally, do something in our community to help. Join an organization like the Democratic Women of Moore County’s Climate Crisis Working Group. Its mission is to study and share information about climate change and take effective steps toward cultural transformation and climate action in Moore County and beyond. All are welcome.

Climate change doesn’t care how you vote or who will win the next election. At the end of the day, we are all in this together.

Jessica Wells is a Southern Pines resident and vice president of the Democratic Women of Moore County.


U.S. Debt Risks Putting Nation to Cut the Military

By John Rowerdink

The topic for this column is, “What is the greatest national security threat facing the United States?”

Depending on whom you ask, you will get a variety of answers to this question. Some will say it’s China, Russia or North Korea. Others will say it’s illegal immigration, health care costs or climate change. I’m guessing that my opinion and that expressed in the companion column to this one will be very different.

I believe that our greatest national security threat is our national debt — currently at $22 trillion and growing.

First, some history: During our country’s first 212 years, from George Washington’s presidency to George W. Bush’s, we accumulated a total of $5 trillion in debt. It increased during World Wars I and II, and we paid it down once the wars were over. Then, during George W. Bush’s two terms, we doubled the debt to $10 trillion. Much worse, we doubled it again to $20 trillion during Barack Obama’s two terms. In those 16 years, we more than quadrupled our national debt, and there is no end in sight.

For those who find the terms “debt” and “deficit” confusing, the national debt is the total amount our country currently owes: $22 trillion. The annual budget deficit is the difference between the country’s revenue and spending for that year. Our government has to borrow the difference, which increases the debt.

In 2018, our government’s revenue was $3.3 trillion. We spent $4.1 trillion, resulting in a deficit of $779 billion. We’ll overspend by a similar amount in 2019.

Most government spending is no longer even negotiable. The combination of entitlement spending (Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid) plus interest on the national debt and other mandatory spending equals more than two-thirds of total spending. The balance is defense spending (16 percent) and other non-mandatory spending.

We’ve had annual budget deficits of $1 trillion or more only four times during our nation’s history, all of which were during President Obama’s presidency. Now, the deficit is projected to hit $1 trillion by 2020 and $2 trillion by 2027. If we continue to add $1 trillion per year for the next 16 years, our debt will be pretty much beyond solving.

The problem is that we can’t materially reduce our budget deficit without addressing entitlement spending — Social Security, Medicare, Medicaid — and our politicians just don’t have the courage to do that. Without action on their part, the debt will continue to grow due to our aging population, higher health care costs, and higher interest cost on our existing debt. In 2018, we paid $250 billion in interest on the debt, and this is projected to increase to $900 billion by 2028. It’s like trying to solve your family’s overspending by using a credit card. This is scary stuff.

So why is the national debt our greatest national security threat? Because of all the possible ways to get our debt under control, the only one that will be seen as politically feasible by Democrats is a reduction in defense spending. The other options are to raise taxes — you’d need to increase taxes 25-30 percent, which is very unlikely — or reduce entitlement spending, which is even less likely. Democrats already think we spend too much on national defense, so that’s the only option they’ll support.

Our most dangerous adversaries are China and Russia, both of whom have been dramatically expanding their military capabilities. Reducing our defense spending in the face of their military expansion presents a dangerous national security threat.

Historically, China has not had a military capability that can equal ours. However, that’s changing. That country is now developing a navy that can circle the globe and expanding its fleet of aircraft carriers, submarines and state-of-the-art drones. The Chinese are already flexing their muscles in the South China Sea and showing a willingness to threaten Taiwan, with whom we have a defense treaty. If they decide to invade Taiwan, will we be prepared to honor our defense treaty commitment to the Taiwanese?

Likewise, the Russians are modernizing their military capabilities and have been increasingly willing to challenge us in Ukraine, the Arctic Ocean and elsewhere.

And there are others, including Iran and North Korea. Both China and Russia are currying favor with these rogue countries. This is not the time to reduce our military capability in order to get our debt under control.

The time for action is now. Please let our elected representatives know that this is an urgent priority and a serious national security threat.

Most of the statistics in this column were obtained from “The Campaign to Fix the Debt,” which is a nonpartisan organization in Washington, D.C., focused on educating the country about the need for fiscal reforms and supporting political action to put our debt on a sustainable path.

John Rowerdink, a Pinehurst resident, is the former chairman of the Moore County Republican Party and president of the Moore County Republican Men’s Club.

(16) comments

Mark Hayes

" If you have the money, trade in your gasoline-dependent car for a hybrid or electric model ". I believe this should be a campaign issue of the Socialist/Democrats. With the proposed college debt forgiveness, tuition free college, free healthcare for all, and numerous other generous offerings by those currently on the Democratic campaign trail, throwing in a free hybrid or electric vehicle may just secure their being elected.

ken leary

Another astute and transformative observation by Mr. Hayes. Keep up the good work.

Mark Hayes

Your blathering makes no sense, go back, do some more Googling, embellish and quote, pretend to be more than you are, criticize and attempt to demean others. Characteristics of those that are no more than mindless individuals with no thoughts of their own. You are entertaining, but then so is a squirrel caught up in traffic.

Jim Tomashoff

Now, now, Markey, time for your "medicine" aka two six-packs. We all know that you think using Google to do research is just a "pretend" way of doing research, something you never feel the need to do, because, like the President you so love, you just act on your "gut." Interesting how you criticize Ken for demeaning others and then you immediately demean him. Know Thy Self? Not at all.

Jim Tomashoff

Interesting that you seem to have a problem with people "Googling." Not everyone chooses to live in a fact free universe. Also note that you take Ken to task for seeming to or attempting to "...demean others." And then you demean Ken. As I said, interesting.

ken leary

Ed: USA workers have paid money into social security since 1935. That money has been stolen by the US government and probably used to finance the destruction of someone's thatched hut in some obscure corner of the world. In place of our money the USA government has given us IOUs. Probably in the form of treasury bonds which will generate interest for us which will be paid by us. The ponzi scheme is that the debt has to be paid by the USA taxpayer a second time, if the debt is to be paid at all. Which of course it is not. Hypothetically, the only guarantee that the USA government can pay its debts comes from the taxpayer. It is all kind of silly. There is no possible way the debt is going to be paid by taxpayers, ever, under the current political, social and economic system. This is why the current administration plans to go to war with the world. It will be a last desperate effort to control the process needed to maintain our rapidly deteriorating position in an ever changing world. A changing world the USA is ignoring out of hubris and ignorance. Your playing your part well Ed.

Mark Hayes

Fed-Up-P8triots. [lol]

ken leary

So John, where is the inflation in the USA since the trillions of dollars added by the Fed/treasury? You and Ed completely missed the point of my post. That does not surprise me.

John Rowerdink

Ken..I didn't miss your point, you are just wrong. Check to see what economist Martin Feldstein, who died this week, thought about the national debt. You mention Karl Marx as a supporter of your position. That's no surprise.

ken leary

I mention Karl Marx because he authored a very comprehensive study of capitalist economic development during the 19th century. If you are not familiar with his contributions your education is lacking. Marx was not mentioned to support my position. He was mentioned as an important contributor for an understanding of economic thought. You conflate household economics with national/sovereign economics. You're wrong. Family's cannot print their own money. That was my point. You then say the government can't print all the money it needs because that will cause hyperinflation. All the Chicago/Austrian school aficionados agree, but none of them even consider money, banking, or debt in their theories. Unfortunately for their " make up a theory as you go" system, people live in the real world where three people in the USA have as much wealth as the bottom fifty percent. Ten trillion dollars have been added to the system, doubling the national debt, since 2008 and there is no inflation. I asked you why this is so in consideration of your reply to me and you sidestepped. No wonder; there are countless explanations because there is no real science to the discipline. No matter how "republican" you want to be, you must surely see that the national debt is not the problem with our country. Of concern should be our growing isolation, and the veil being lifted off our exceptionalism. That is what has the sabers rattleing to maintain the dying empire. Sort of like any other of the numerous dying empires throughout recorded history.

ken leary

Martin Feldstein. Looked into him the other day. Member of the TriLateral Commission/Group of 30/ neoliberal/neoconservative/ worked for both Reagan and Bush but was ignored/ adamantly wanted to do away with Social Security/Unemployment/any social programs actually/taught the same beginners course at harvard for years (very popular it is said. Probably because it was a cake walk course) /was a member of an organization for years that was supposed to warn of recession (failed) In his essay (I read it) there are the typical neoclassical elusive variables which defy reality and never work out because it is all theory from 1950 text books based on 1850 economic thought. (I plagiarized the text book statement.) His essay where you got your ideas?

ken leary

You say, regarding the national debt, "It’s like trying to solve your family’s overspending by using a credit card." No, this is a false comparison. If your argument is based on this premise, which it appears to be, your entire polemic is spurious. Citizens have to pay off credit cards, or any debt incurred , by trading their time and labor ( unless you are a financial terrorist in which case you just find an angle, pay off the politicians to ok it, then steal with impunity). Sovereign governments, unlike families, can conjure up all the capital desired by punching a keyboard. Try that at home. You might try reading some of the information on MMT, or considering the work of Michael Hudson, Steve Keen, Stephanie Kelton, Richard Wolfe, Mark Blyth, Karl Marx, Thomas Piketty, or William Black. The United States has no debt problem it can’t solve with a stroke of a pen. And I’m not sure that social security is an “entitlement.†There are a bunch of IOU treasuries in a vault in some small building in Virginia I believe. That is money paid by the American working people which has been invested. That, I believe, does not constitute an entitlement. There is no danger of the USA government not being able to pay it debt. And yes, cut the gravy train off for the manufacture of WOMD that the USA government sells to dictators for the purpose of murdering their citizens in order to perpetuate transnational corporate investment opportunities.

Ed Pieczynski

It's great to see you disagree with every economist (on both sides) that say the US had no debt problem. You should be very proud. I'm guessing you actually believe Medicare and SS are really not going to run out of money. Gotta be nice in your world.

ken leary

PAUL RYAN: “Do you believe that personal retirement accounts can help us achieve solvency for the system and make those future retiree benefits more secure?” ALAN GREENSPAN: “Well, I wouldn’t say that the pay-as-you-go benefits are insecure, in the sense that there’s nothing to prevent the federal government from creating as much money as it wants and paying it to somebody. The question is, how do you set up a system which assures that the real assets are created which those benefits are employed to purchase.”

John Rowerdink

Ken…Where were you when you missed Economics 101 class – in typing class? So what happens when the government just prints more money? Each dollar in circulation becomes worth less. That’s called hyperinflation. If you don’t know what that is, move to Venezuela and you’ll find out. My suggestion is that you go ahead and borrow more against your house and run up all your credit cards and see how long it takes before someone stops you. That’s what bond buyers will do when they conclude the USA can no longer be counted on to pay its debt.

Richard Wright

There is no known relationship between the CA fire or hurricane Micheal. Damages caused by each, and by most natural disasters, occur to over building and building in areas susceptible to natural disasters.

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