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The U.S. Pentagon’s latest report, the 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, calls climate change an immediate threat to national security.

The forward, by U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, sets the tone: “Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic diseases, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

The Pentagon’s “road map” refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because “it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism.”

The road map outlines plans to integrate climate change considerations into U.S. defense planning scenarios, preparation for extreme weather events, and work with other federal and local agencies to “develop a comprehensive, whole-of-government approach to a challenge that reaches across traditional portfolios and jurisdictions.”

The New York Times reports that the Pentagon’s characterization of climate change as a “present-day threat” demanding immediate action “represents a significant shift for the military, which has in the past focused on climate change as a future risk.” According to the Times, the report “is aimed in part at building support for a United Nations agreement,” to be signed next year in Paris, that would limit the world to a less than 2-degree Celsius rise in global temperature.

The Times also notes that Defense Secretary Hagel’s “increasingly prominent role in pushing for a new global climate change treaty is a sign that the urgency of the issue is starting to drive changes in the political debate.” Back in 1997, when he was a Republican senator from Nebraska, Hagel worked to block the U.S. from signing the Kyoto Protocol. According to the Times, Mr. Hagel’s efforts today to “lay the groundwork for a new global climate deal signal a remarkable shift.”

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