By Sodavy Ou
“Planning for climate change and smarter energy investments not only make us a stronger military, they have many additional benefits—saving us money, reducing demand, and helping protect the environment,” former Secretary of Defense, Chuck Hagel
Similar to wealth, global warming’s detrimental impacts are not distributed equally across the globe.
Developed nations, such as the United States and Western European countries, have the resources to lessen the magnitude of global warming in their nations. Unfortunately, the same cannot be said for less developed nations where economic development needs outweigh environmental needs. However, since the world is inter-connected, environmental issues in other countries significantly influence the U.S. economy and national security.
Additionally, even though the U.S. can mitigate many environmental impacts, and even though most Americans feel relatively isolated from global warming, major changes in the national economy affect our daily life. Changes that we may have failed to notice.
Agriculture: A multi-billion dollar industry threatened by global warming
Exposed riverbed in the Columbia river after months without rain
In addition to feeding Americans, agriculture is an important sector of the U.S. economy. Contributing at least $200 billion to the economy each year, it also provides almost 17 million jobs for farmers, textile mill employees, and distributors, among others.
Changes in precipitation patterns—consequences of climate change—are already significantly affecting the economy. For instance, the severe drought in California, the top agricultural producing state, costs the state approximately 21,000 jobs and $900 million in revenue related to crop losses.
Stakeholders and consumers pay a high price
In 2011, a drought in Texas increased the price of feeding cattle. Three years later, the drought still influences the industry despite the recent rains in the Southern Plain. In its 2015 – 2016 Food Price Outlook, the USDA predicts that beef and veal prices will increase by 5.5 to 6.5 percent in 2015 and 2.5 to 3.5 percent in 2016.
The same increase cannot be said for all fruit and vegetable prices, mainly because the cost of growing produce is much lower than the retail price. However, some fruits and vegetable prices have experienced a sharp increase. For instance, the USDA also predicts that lettuce and avocado prices will increase by 34 and 28 percent, respectively.
Changes in global temperatures and precipitation patterns affect national security
California: Guard soldiers gear up for fire season
Tasked with ensuring American security, the Department of Defense plans for a wide range of contingencies. According to the DOD’s 2014 Climate Change Adaption Roadmap, this includes strategy to address global warming impacts that range from intensifying infectious diseases to terrorism to natural disasters.
One study demonstrated that changes in rainfall are associated with large- and small-scale political and social conflicts. It showed that as the global temperature increases, dry regions become drier and wet regions experience more severe floods, resulting in decreased food production. As food and water become scarce, social conflicts can intensify.
Global warming is not simply an environmental issue, but also an economic and national security issue, and various industries and players must continue to work collaboratively to address the threats properly.
Sodavy Ou was born in Cambodia and grew up in Long Beach, California. She received her Bachelors in Environmental Studies with an emphasis in Biology from University of California, Santa Cruz. She is currently pursuing her master’s degree from the Bren School of Environmental Science & Management at University of California, Santa Barbara. Outside of the academic field, she enjoys hiking, camping, running, and any other activities that take her to the great outdoors.