Climate change cited as biggest threat
The United State's top military official in the Pacific says the biggest long term security threat in the region is climate change.
In an interview with the Boston Globe Admiral Samuel J Locklear III, commander, US Pacific Command said significant upheaval related to the warming planet "is probably the most likely thing that is going to happen . . . that will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.''
He told the Globe that people were surprised to hear that warning from him.
"You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level," he said.
"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."
Locklear said his headquarters in Hawaii was working with Asian nations to stockpile supplies in strategic locations and planning a major exercise for May with nearly two dozen countries to practice the "what-ifs."
He said he was increasingly focussed on sea level rise.
"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."
The US military, he told the Globe, is beginning to reach out to other armed forces in the region about the issue.
"We have interjected into our multilateral dialogue - even with China and India - the imperative to kind of get military capabilities aligned [for] when the effects of climate change start to impact these massive populations," he said.
"If it goes bad, you could have hundreds of thousands or millions of people displaced and then security will start to crumble pretty quickly.''