Climate Change Threatens Pacific Peace: U.S.'s Greatest Worry

As if there weren’t enough geopolitical turmoil in the Asian Pacific region already, U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear threw another massive threat to international peace on the worry pile over the weekend: the environment.

Locklear told reporters from the Boston Globe that climate change is the number-one threat to peace in the region, as extreme weather and rising water levels threaten the homes of entire nations and billions of dollars in vital trade routes.

“People are surprised sometimes,” Locklear said. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17.”

As the commander of U.S. military forces in the Pacific, Locklear is in charge of the 400,000 service members and civilians that work in the U.S.’s defense interests in the region. And he sees reason to believe that their job is about to get much harder.

This pending difficulty, he said in his discussion with The Globe, was not even tied to the traditional foci of current foreign policy in Asia, as North Korea continues to escalate its threats to the U.S. and Japan enters conflicts over various neighboring islands, against the Chinese with the Senkaku islands and the Russians with the Sakhalins.

But none of that scares Locklear as much as the melting polar ice caps.

“The ice is melting and sea is getting higher,” Locklear said. “I’m into the consequence management side of it. I’m not a scientist, but the island of Tarawa in Kiribati, they’re contemplating moving their entire population to another country because [it] is not going to exist anymore.”

Another front Locklear faces that he feels is underemphasized is on the Internet, in the invisible hacker war against China that becomes more visible each day.

“We made cyberspace as kind of an ungoverned territory . . . and we haven’t been able to get our arms around how to govern it yet,” Locklear said.

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