Middleton: Veterans need to lend voices in support of climate change reforms

08/24/2014 9:00 PM

08/22/2014 3:54 PM

We need the voice of our veterans to help all Americans understand that sustainable clean energy is a national security imperative. Though the past decade has seen advances in clean-energy technology, leading America away from a dangerous dependence on fossil fuels requires both continuing to invest in innovative solutions and growing the chorus of public voices spreading this essential message. The personal experiences of our brave men and women in uniform are key to helping President Obama’s climate action plan advance.

I recently joined a group of administration officials and members of Operation Free at the White House to discuss the impact veterans have on this important subject. Veterans are powerful messengers who can be a trusted independent voice to engage people in the conversation and mobilize individuals to act. Either through working in the clean-energy sector or by leading discussions with community stakeholders and elected officials, veterans are promoting best practices, speaking out for creative solutions and highlighting the example of what military communities and families are doing to reduce the negative impacts of climate change.

Rising sea levels and the increased frequency and intensity of extreme weather events pose a threat to our critical infrastructure at home and are disrupting training and preparation of military operations. The problem doesn’t stop at our gate: Even if our installations become more resilient, the impacts are significantly affecting neighboring communities as well.

Veterans can carry the message to diverse neighborhoods and raise awareness that when there is less smog and soot in the air you breathe every day, the number of children with bronchitis and asthma attacks is smaller.

Veterans can be a catalyst to call for improvements of coal-fired power plants, supporting the need for additional wind and solar electricity generation, encourage the use of renewable energy in public buildings or argue in favor of decreasing energy waste in our homes. Resilient communities become such when they have options, are empowered to create change and are informed with the facts.

Every citizen has a role to play in our climate security. Smart messaging means that more individuals will better understand what climate change is and how it affects their daily lives. With robust public support, our advancements in having a clean energy infrastructure will accelerate, and sound energy policies will emerge from municipalities, legislatures and Congress.

Clay Middleton


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