Testimony before the
Environment and Public Works Committee,
United States Senate
My name is Dr. James Jay Carafano. I am the Deputy Director of
the Kathryn and Shelby Cullom Davis Institute for International
Studies and the Director of Douglas and Sarah Allison Center for
Foreign Policy Studies at The Heritage Foundation. The views I
express in this testimony are my own, and should not be construed
as representing any official position of The Heritage
Thank you for the opportunity to appear before the committee
today and address this vital subject. As President Barack Obama
rightly noted in one of his first directives, his "highest priority
is to keep the American people safe." He is right. The preamble of
the U.S. Constitution states "providing for the common defense" is
among the greatest obligations of government. It is, therefore,
judicious and appropriate for the committee to consider the
national security implications of major legislation that could well
affect our freedoms, safety, and prosperity.
The Clean Energy Jobs and America Power Act (S. 1733) has
engendered tremendous controversy. Concerns abound about the
legislation's adverse economic consequences, and there is
skepticism of its effects on world climate trends. I will focus my
analysis and observations on the national security implications of
attempting to address climate change through a framework
established by national legislation.
The premise behind the proposed legislation is that the United
States must create a government-run program to reduce the emission
of "greenhouse gases," including carbon dioxide (CO2).
The bill would establish a complex energy tax scheme to penalize
businesses and industries that emit these gases. Proponents of the
legislation have argued that passage is essential to advance U.S.
national security. Without the law, proponents argue, adverse
climate changes will cause nations to fail, natural disasters will
yield unprecedented humanitarian crises, and states will
chronically go to combat over the remaining resources. Likewise,
they conclude that the legislation will break an "addiction to
foreign oil[that] hurts our economy, helps our enemies and risks
our security." I disagree with both conclusions.
I conclude that U.S. long-term national security would not be
best addressed through legislation that attempts to regulate carbon
emissions. This assessment is based on my experience as a serving
military officer of 25 years, much of which revolved around
strategy and policy planning; a complementary career as a military
historian particularly interested in the relationship between armed
forces and society and the intersection of military affairs,
scientific, business, cultural, and economic history; and as a
professor in post-graduate studies whose research and lectures
focus on the methods of analysis used to address complex and
intractable public policy and national security
In my remarks today I would like to do three things: 1) address
each of the arguments for linking global warming and long-term U.S.
security interests; 2) discuss what I think should rightly be the
focus of analyzing the proposed legislation--the short-term
security concerns that I believe might arise if the bill becomes
law; and 3) suggest some efficacious options for addressing global
warming and energy supply Issues in the context of national
The March of Folly--Simple Answer to Complex Problems
At the root of my concerns over the proposed legislation is that
it frames the challenge of global climate change, governance,
political violence, and worldwide energy supplies as a single
problem susceptible to resolution by management of a single
independent variable. Public policy analysis suggests that cannot
Global environment, governance, and resources constitute a vast,
complex system. A system is "any set of regularly interacting
factors and activities that has definable boundaries and that
produces measurable outputs." The complexity of a system is
determined by the number and diversity of interacting components.
When systems become overly complex, their behavior cannot be easily
predicted by traditional methods of analysis (breaking a system
into its component parts and analyzing elements in detail). These
systems are described as complex "non-linear." Non-linear
environments make it extremely difficult to map the cause and
effect between variables. Indeed, in such environments isolating
independent variables (a single factor that can be manipulated that
will drive the behavior of the whole system) may be impossible. In
a complex system, elements are so interconnected and their
relationship so multifaceted that their properties cannot be
properly understood without assessing their interrelationship with
each other as well as their relationship with the wider system and
its environment. Offering simple answers to complex problems
will not work. This is certainly the case in attempting to
understand the relationship between global warming and national
While it might feel intuitively appropriate to directly connect
the dots between the changing global environment and the human
response to global warming, an appropriate complex system analysis
would warn against such an approach. The issue of just predicting
long-term global climate trends is fraught with controversy and
uncertainty. Layering social science models upon our current
state-of-the-art climate models to predict complex human responses
(including how markets, governments, and communities will respond
to anything) is little more than an act of making highly subjective
Fighting Air--Climate Change and Choice
Attempting to address national security in the context of
climate challenge is problematic. The folly of simplicity is
perhaps best illustrated in Jared Diamond's highly regarded study
Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed(2005).
Diamond lists a daunting 12 factors that historically contributed
to the collapse of a society--and these are only the factors
directly controlled by humans. It is worth noting that
Diamond is able to detail how this myriad of forces and choices
interacted with one another only through the hindsight gained
through hundreds of years of historical and archeological research.
Collapse illustrates the immense difficulty of mapping cause
and effect in complex human-environment systems. Additionally, the
ability to apply any lessons to the future is complicated by the
fact that both human institutions and the natural environment are
continually changing and changing each other. His work should, in
fact, be seen as a cautionary tale against relying on predictive
social science models to interpret complex systems behavior.
history is in fact littered with case studies that suggest
straight-line mapping of human-environment interaction is
problematic. Since the 1950s, for example, historians have been
debating the "seventeenth century crisis" in history as a
particularly difficult age. A drop of global temperature, known as the
"little Ice-Age" was one of many factors that researchers have
cited to account for the political, economic, and military upheaval
of the period. Decades of debate, however, have achieved no
consensus on cause-and-effect relationships. For example, while the
period did see more wars and an increase in human mortality, this
age also accounts for the emergence of political stability,
scientific discovery and innovation, and the rise of economic
productivity in future great powers like Britain and France. If
anything, the process of constructing a compelling paradigm has
left scholars skeptical of "social-scientific" explanations of
history, yet alone suggested any confidence in predicting the
future. Anticipating with certainty how climate
change will affect human progress is a march of folly.
Indeed, there are many variables other than climate that affect
how humans respond to climate change and, in turn, change their
behaviors to try to impact climate change and its consequences. For
example, while the emission of greenhouse gases has been
skyrocketing across the globe in the last decades, political
violence has been in decline. This case has been made by at least
two independent academic assessments. In the short term, many
factors impact on the capacity of humans to govern themselves. On
the global scale, human responses rather than long-term
environmental trends prove the most dominant.
In short, viewing climate change and national security together
as a single complex model makes little sense. The global climate
has always been changing. Adapting to these changes and human
efforts to manage their surrounding environment is a permanent
feature of human competition. The environment does not cause
wars--it is how humans respond to their environment that causes
Climate change does not necessarily ensure that there will be
more or less conflict. For example, as the Arctic ice melts and the
environment becomes more benign, Arctic waters will become more
available for fishing, mineral and energy exploitation, and
maritime transport. Nations will compete over these resources, but
it is how they choose to compete--not the change in the
weather--that will determine whether war breaks out.
Furthermore, any changes in the climate, for better or for
worse, will occur gradually over decades. Thus, there will be ample
time to adjust national security and humanitarian assistance
instruments to accommodate future demands. Those adjustments can
and should be made with the most appropriate instruments, which
might comprise any or all of the elements of national power
including diplomatic, economic, political, and informational tools
as well as the armed forces.
Supplanting Marketing--Energy Security's Trojan Horse
The Clean Energy Jobs and America Power Act also purports to
address U.S. national security by addressing concerns over energy
security. Proponents claim that government manipulation of energy
markets will reduce U.S. dependence on foreign energy sources and
correspondingly increase American security. This logic is also
flawed from the start. Global energy markets are complex systems as
well. It would therefore be equally prudent to be skeptical of
simple cause-and-effect plans.
history is again instructive. In response to the "energy crisis"
during the 1970s, the U.S. government took a plethora of actions,
implementing a proactive policy to address energy supplies,
particularly oil. There were numerous pieces of new legislation,
implemented by an alphabet soup of overlapping federal agencies, as
well as a host of actions undertaken directly by a succession of
presidents. The level of government interference with the nation's
energy markets was unprecedented, and these efforts had impacts
that usually ranged from ineffective to downright
At almost every turn, Washington took an already challenging
energy situation and made it worse through its own policy blunders.
The federal government's newly created maze of economic and
environmental regulations and the agencies implementing them
greatly hampered domestic energy supplies and limited the ability
to respond to events. In retrospect, government policies
contributed to the harm at least as much as any foreign entity. The
errors of the 1970s should serve as a cautionary tale as America
again faces similar challenges.
Likewise, today legislators should be wary of the desire to
impose simple solutions on complex systems and expect the results
to be both readily anticipated and inevitably constructive. Even if
U.S. energy policies could drive global energy markets in any
direction Americans chose (a big "if"), that impact would likely
have both positive and negative affects on U.S. Security. For
example, although the U.S. is heavily dependant on foreign energy,
much of it comes from Mexico and Canada, nations friendly to
America and among our largest trading partners. In the short term,
one of the most significant impacts of the long-term declining
reliance on carbon fuels would be a significant loss to their
economies--perhaps a destabilizing one. On the other hand, policies
that in the short term might drive up the price of oil would put
more money in the hands of countries like Venezuela and Russia,
whose foreign policies often clash with the United States.
Likewise, adding new transaction costs on energy supplies that
increase costs may also unduly weaken the U.S. economy. Simply
supplanting market forces is unlikely to prove a panacea for
improving U.S. security. The U.S. cannot be confident that by
imposing new controls on U.S. energy production and consumption
America will become axiomatically less dependent on foreign energy
Simple Answers--Danger Zone for Complex Problems
Indeed, whether the case is trying to link global energy
supplies or global temperature to American security, using analysis
that suggests employing a single process to guide changes to
complex systems might not only be wrong, but could be
detrimental--the equivalent of the cure being worse than the
The deleterious effect of using simple mandates to manage
complex systems is best illustrated through an examination of the
adoption of the Program-Planning Budget System (PPBS) by the
Pentagon in 1960s. The premise of PPBS was that linking analysis,
planning, strategic decision-making, and the day-to-day management
of defense activities into a unified process would make the
allocation of resources more rational, relevant, and effective. It
failed to achieve that goal. Simply controlling the "machinery" of
Pentagon decision-making did not actually allow the Secretary of
Defense to produce optimum results, particularly in regards to
fighting the Vietnam War. While it empowered Defense Secretary
Robert McNamara to impose his "will" upon the decision-making
process inside the Pentagon, "planning proved to be an impediment
to effective strategic thinking and action, whether one favored
hawkish military strategies or dovish political ones...the problem
was not that PPBS tried to dictate these choices directly so much
as that, by virtue of how it necessarily worked--what planning
excluded as well as included--it influenced strongly how others
made those choices." In the end, prescriptive policies just
implemented bad decisions faster.
The challenge of dealing with global warming through legislative
fiat risks a similar fate. By overly structuring the response to
complex system problems, the Congress will have an uncertain impact
on the system--there is little question, however, that Congress
will have a dramatic impact on those elements of the system to
which cause and effect can be readily linked. Thus, Congress would
be wise to limit analysis and debate over the costs and benefits of
the Clean Energy Jobs and America Power Act to factors where cause
and effect can be more clearly mapped.
The Real Issues for the Energy Act
While the long-term impacts of climate change on national
security can be debated, the short-term impact of legislation to
curb emissions is more readily apparent. A study by The Heritage
Foundation's Center for Data Analysis on a similar companion bill
proposed in the House finds that the law would make the United
States about $9.4 trillion poorer by 2035. Much of this decline
would be from reduced economic productivity and job loss. In
particular, under the House legislation there would be 1.15 million
fewer jobs on average than without a cap-and-trade bill.
Other economic concerns include rising deficits and continued
devaluing of the dollar.
A sharp decline in economic productivity would like have a
deleterious impact on U.S. security. For example, a collapse in
U.S. economic growth would result in even more draconian cuts to
the defense budget, leaving America with a military much less
prepared to deal with future threats. Indeed, if America's military
power declines, there would probably be more wars, not fewer.
Likewise, a steep drop in American economic growth would lengthen
and deepen the global recession. That in turn will make other
states poorer, undermining their ability to protect themselves and
recover from natural disasters.
A consequence of passage of this legislation is that it may well
create the world we want to avoid. The law would ensure a steep
decline in U.S. economic competitiveness and military preparedness.
The consequences of a weak America would inevitably lead to a
string of national security crises and an undermining of the
nation's capacity to deal with natural disasters here and abroad.
It would seem in examining the national security implications of
climate change, scrutinizing the short-term impact of the
legislation would be much more important to address.
Likewise, proponents of the bill must also speak to concerns
that any law will not impact global warming in any significant
manner. According to climatologist Chip Knappenberger, similar
legislation proposed in the House would moderate temperatures by
only hundredths of a degree after being in effect for the next 40
years and no more than two-tenths of a degree at the end of the
century. EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson concurred,
recently saying, "US action alone will not impact world CO2
levels." Additionally, the impact of
"managing" greenhouse gases on the environment also remains a
subject of great controversy. For example, as Senator Inhofe noted
in a floor speech, S. Fred Singer, an atmospheric scientist at the
University of Virginia, who served as the first director of the
U.S. Weather Satellite Service and more recently as a member and
vice chairman of the National Advisory Committee on Oceans and
Atmosphere, said that "no one knows what constitutes a 'dangerous'
concentration. There exists, as yet, no scientific basis for
defining such a concentration, or even of knowing whether it is
more or less than current levels of carbon dioxide." In
short, if these concerns are valid, the legislation argues for
taking on significant short-term risks to the U.S. economy and our
security for uncertain gains in environmental quality.
I am not suggesting that the United States "do nothing" to
protect its national security, ensure abundant supplies of energy,
and contribute in a meaningful manner to the stewardship of the
global environment. What I am saying is that if we must act with
deliberation and speed, we should act where we can act with greater
confidence in our outcomes. In this respect, there are options for
enhancing national security, improving our ability to adapt to
global climate change, and enhancing the dependability and
availability of clean energy that the Congress should consider.
These would include:
- Fund defense adeqaequately. Regardless of how the
climate changes or the status of energy supplies, the U.S. will
need a military that has sufficient resources to conduct current
operations, maintain a trained and ready force, and prepare for the
challenges of the future. Spending significantly less than 4
percent of GDP on defense for the next five to 10 years would
shortchange the military. Such under funding would ultimately
produce a hollow force that is either too small, unable to sustain
current operational demands, not ready, or at a technological
disadvantage on the battlefield. Congress can provide adequately
for national security by making a firm commitment to fund the
national defense at no less than 4 percent of GDP for the next 10
years. This commitment would require Congress to add roughly $400
billion to the defense budget for from FY 2009 to FY 2012. A
portion of this money would be allocated to ongoing operations,
while the remainder should go to the core defense program, with a
special emphasis on developing and deploying the next generation of
weapons and equipment.
- Restrain non-defense discretionary spending. The best
tool the U.S. can have to face the future is a strong economy.
Imbalances in the level of federal spending and the allocation of
federal dollars threaten both the competitiveness and the security
of the U.S. Spending not related to defense and post-9/11
operations has increased by 49 percent since 2001, or 5.9 percent
annually, compared to 4.2 percent growth under President Bill
Clinton. Since 2001, spending on education has grown by 7.5 percent
per year, health research by 7.3 percent, and international affairs
by 8.0 percent. At a time when defense and homeland security
priorities require especially tight non-security budgets, Members
of Congress have not made necessary trade-offs. Instead, they have
accelerated the growth of non-security spending.
- Use the military appropriately. Remaining an integral
part of the global economy is vital to long-term U.S. national
security and the country's continuing economic competitiveness.
Rather than attempting to defend, protect, control, or secure any
means of domestic or global production, the greatest degree of
security comes from having access to the global marketplace and
obtaining goods, resources, and services based on market decisions
from friendly suppliers. It is in the vital interest of the United
States to uphold the principle of freedom of the seas and to
promote and protect the ways and means of free trade among nations
acting in accordance with the rule of law. To accomplish this, the
United States should retain the capability to use all of the
instruments of national power--including military, diplomatic, law
enforcement, intelligence, economic, and informational power--in
any theater where U.S. interests could be at risk.
- Reorganize key non-military instruments so that they
are more effective. Again, regardless of how climate and energy
supplies evolve, U.S. power must be used effectively to advance
U.S. interests. In particular, key non-military instruments such as
foreign assistance and public diplomacy are in need of serious
reform. Traditional foreign assistance programs have a very poor
track record for improving governance, economic growth, or civil
society. Of equal concern, U.S. instruments for public diplomacy
have atrophied since the end of the Cold War and are in serious
need of reform. Neither challenge is being adequately addressed by
the current administration.
- Ensure that any effort to reduce reliance on foreign oil is
grounded in policies that are best for the economy. Reducing
oil imports from unstable or unfriendly regimes should be done in a
way that minimizes the economic cost to Americans. Policies such as
raising taxes on gasoline while mandating or subsidizing expensive
or unproven alternative fuels and vehicles lead to large costs with
marginal--or even negative--results. The first steps in reducing
reliance on foreign oil are to make full use of domestic petroleum
reserves and to remove disincentives to investment in oil
production from friendly nations. These should be coupled with
efforts to encourage diversification away from petroleum, which
will be best achieved not by government fiat, but by the private
sector-led development of alternatives that can compete in their
own right. Domestically, the federal role should be limited to
conducting basic research and removing regulatory and tax barriers
that impede private-sector innovation. In addition, restrictions on
international growth in alternatives, such as the tariffs that
limit ethanol imports into the United States, should be
- Use free markets to advance a green energy and environment
agenda. Trade measures in carbon-control legislation may appear
necessary for protecting U.S. competitiveness and promoting broader
international participation in such schemes. However, in reality,
such measures will likely create a more hostile trade environment
that costs U.S. firms access to global markets.Rather than using
trade policy as a weapon, America should keep markets open.
Policymakers--regardless of the shape of any final climate
bill--should maintain the integrity and freedom of global markets
as a means to transfer clean technologies, keep international
investment flowing, and promote economic growth and prosperity in
the U.S. and around the world.
A Better World
Both the advocates and critics of the Clean Energy Jobs and
America Power Act share common goals. They want a world where the
U.S. remains safe, free, and prosperous. They want a future where
the U.S. is a worldwide leader in the stewardship of the global
environment, the advancement of freedom and justice, and
sustainable growth. My testimony today is intended to help bridge
the gap between them--not by rejecting the notion that the U.S.
should deal responsibly with the challenges of global climate
change, but by suggesting there are real limits to knowing how we
can shape the future--and we should focus our initiatives on what
we can know.
Thank you for the opportunity to address these vital issues. I
look forward to your questions.
Richard L. Kugler, Policy Analysis in National Security Affairs:
New Methods for a New Era (Washington, D.C.: National Defense
University Press, 2006), p. 218.
Ralph Doty, "Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,"
Human Ecology Review, Vol. 12, No. 1 (2005), p. 76-77.
Scott E. Page, "Are We Collapsing? A Review of
Jared Diamond's Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed,"
Journal of Economic Literature,December 2005, p. 1050.
Eric Hobsbawm, "The General Crisis of the European Economy in the
17th Century: I," Past & Present, 5 (May 1954), pp.
33-53; "The Crisis of the 17th Century: II," Past &
Present, 6 (November 1954), pp. 44-65.
J.B.Shank, "Crisis: A Useful Category of Post-Social Scientific
Historical Analysis?" The American Historical Review, Vol.
113, No. 4 (October 2008), pp. 1090-1099.
J. Joseph, et al., Peace and Conflict 2010 (Boulder, CO:
Paradigm Publishers and the Center for International Development
and Conflict Management, 2009), p. 1, at http://www.cidcm.umd.edu/pc/executive
_summary/exec_sum_2010.pdf (October 25, 2010); Human
Security Project Research Group, "Human Security Brief 2007," 2008,
(October 25, 2009).
See Ben Lieberman, "Crisis! What Crisis?: America's Response to the
Energy Crisis," in James Jay Carafano and Richard Weitz, eds.
Mismanaging Mayhem: How Washington Responds to Crisis
(Westport, Conn.,: Praeger Security International, 2008), pp.
Henry Mintzberg, The Rise and Fall of Strategic Planning
(New York: Prentice Hall, 1994), pp. 120-121.