Climate Change a 'National Security Threat,' Republican-Led House Declares in Defense Bill Vote

The United States Capitol Dome before dawn in Washington, D.C., on March 22, 2013. The U.S. military has been asked to report on how it could be affected by climate change. REUTERS/Gary Cameron

The majority-Republican House of Representatives declared Friday that climate change is a national security threat while passing a defense spending bill, according to reports. It's a stunning turn for a party that has for a long time distanced itself from climate science in favor of business interests.

The $696 billion bill, which sets up the military's 2018 fiscal year budget, passed by a vote of 344-81. It also includes provisions that call for better oversight of the military's cyberoperations and knocks back President Donald Trump's attempt to close military bases, the Associated Press reported.

The surprising section calls global warming "a direct threat to the national security" and instructs the Pentagon to create a report on how climate change could affect the military. It asks for a list of 10 bases that could be susceptible to phenomena such as increased flooding and rising oceans.

Republicans did at one time appear ready to tackle the contentious issue of climate change, when Senator John McCain of Arizona secured the party's presidential nomination in 2008, according to The New York Times. McCain's support for doing so included an ad that quoted him calling out former President George W. Bush on the issue and saying he had "sounded the alarm on global warming."

Since then, however, the party has scaled back such support—even if many Republicans privately say they believe climate change is real.

"Most Republicans still do not regard climate change as a hoax," White Ayres, a Republican strategist, told the Times last month. "But the entire climate change debate has now been caught up in the broader polarization of American politics.

"In some ways," Ayres continues, "it's become yet another of the long list of litmus-test issues that determine whether or not you're a good Republican."

It's become especially difficult for Republicans to budge on the issue due to President Donald Trump's stance and recent decisions. The president put Scott Pruitt, who has long advocated against climate scientists and environmentalists, in charge of the Environmental Protection Agency, and on June 1, Trump withdrew the U.S. from the Paris climate accord, a multilateral effort meant to curb carbon emissions around the world.

But the defense bill could also, in part, be considered a win for the president, who has said he wants a strong military. The House approved a defense budget that is $30 billion more than Trump had originally asked for, but in order for it to pass, Congress will have to find a way around 2011's Budget Control Act, which called for $487 billion in defense spending cuts over 10 years.