Of all the institutions in the United States, few have maintained as strong a focus on objective fact and resisted political interference in decision-making as strongly as the U.S. military. In this context, it is notable that the military has repeatedly raised concerns about the potential impacts of Climate Change since at least 2003.
This week, a group of retired generals and other high-level military officers who serve on the Military Advisory Board (MAB) for think tank CNA have issued a new warning that even outside of the effects on Climate Change, the United States is at risk if it does not actively and strategically engage in the global energy transition.
In Advanced Energy and U.S. National Security, the CNA MAB looks at what it calls a “tectonic shift” in the global energy picture, driven by a combination of new energy technologies and rising demand.
The purview of the piece is broad, looking at both new techniques for fossil fuel extraction as well as renewable energy technologies, energy storage, electric vehicles and even nuclear power, under the term “advanced energy”.
The report finds that this shift to advanced energy is affecting the global balance of power. Similarly to an article published last October in Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, CNA MAB finds that the energy transition means that centers of geopolitical power are likely to be more diffuse than in the past.
“Future energy supplies will be more distributed than the geographically concentrated oil, coal and natural gas posture,” states the report. “Some nations will prosper in this transition; others will falter. The consequences will have direct effects on U.S. national security.”
The report notes that the United States is at a distinct disadvantage due to its lack of strategic planning regarding advanced energy, in contrast to most other developed and developing nations. “China, Russia, Japan, the E.U., Middle Eastern nations, and others have implemented national strategies to seize opportunities in the new energy landscape. The U.S. has not taken a similar strategic approach,” notes the 76-page report’s executive summary.
And CNA MAB does not mince words about what the outcome will be. “Should the U.S. sit on the sidelines, it does so at considerable risk to our national security,” the report states. “The stakes are too high to let others set the course.”
And while not directly criticizing the Trump Administration, the report presents this as a choice facing the United States as a nation. “The U.S. has a choice: Will we be bystanders in the transformation, or do we participate and steer the process to our economic and security advantage?”