Council on Environmental Quality Blog

  • Climate Change is a National Security Issue

    It was the afternoon of Saturday, April 24th, 2004, and as usual it was a breathtakingly hot day in the Northern Arabian Gulf—easily over 90 degrees. I was standing watch in the Combat Information Center onboard the USS BULKELEY (DDG-84), a U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer, and we were steaming south on a new mission.

    We had recently completed our weeks-long tasking of guarding the two offshore oil terminals that sit off the coast of Iraq. We knew these terminals were targets for insurgent attack, so it had been a stressful few weeks of round-the-clock operations, monitoring everything that moved on the water or in the skies; and intercepting anything that got a little too close for comfort.

    As we sailed south, the call came we had all been dreading. The terminals were under attack. Although we had trained for it countless times, it was still surreal to hear it come across the radio. We turned the ship around and sped north at flank speed. We put the ship at high alert and launched our helicopters to take a first look, but it was too late. Terrorists had already launched an attack on the Al Basra terminal. In the end, the coalition forces on-site would foil their attack, but it ultimately cost the lives of two U.S. sailors and a Coastguardsmen.

    I tell this story because at the heart of that fight was the issue of energy. Now, more than ever, the United States faces global challenges as we respond to threats born from instability in energy-rich regions, and a changing environment impacted by climate change.

    Today, the Department of Defense is delivering a report to Congress entitled the “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.” It states in no uncertain terms what our men and women in uniform are seeing every single day—that it “is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security.”

    The report identifies the most serious and likely climate-related security risks and discusses the ways that DoD is navigating these risks as part of its planning processes. It also describes the resources that will be required to adequately and effectively respond to them.

    The report builds upon the risks DoD identified in its 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review, when it made the following case: “the pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

    The good news is, we are taking aggressive action to combat these threats. President Obama’s diversified energy strategy is making America more energy independent, and since the President took office, domestic energy-related emissions have fallen to their lowest level in 20 years. For the first time in nearly three decades, we're importing less foreign oil than we're producing domestically -- and we're using less overall. That's a really big deal.

    America is producing more oil, gas, and renewable energy, and the U.S. is becoming more energy efficient overall. These trends are increasing our energy security, cutting our carbon pollution, and enhancing our economic growth.

    The United States is leading global efforts to address the threat of climate change. Since 2005, the United States has reduced its total carbon pollution more than any other nation on Earth. Wind power has tripled, and solar energy has increased twenty times. President Obama has taken a series of common-sense steps to curb carbon pollution and other greenhouse gases through initiatives that drive energy efficiency, promote clean energy, and put in place the first-ever carbon pollution standards for power plants.

    While we are leading in these efforts at home, we know no country is immune from the impacts of climate change. And no country can meet this challenge alone. America continues to lead the international community in driving action to reduce carbon pollution and prepare for climate impacts, and we are helping to forge a truly global solution to this global challenge.

    My time in service in the US Navy, my time in service here at the White House, and my time as a father of two young girls reminds me constantly of President Obama’s challenge:

    “Someday, our children, and our children’s children, will look at us in the eye and they’ll ask us, did we do all that we could when we had the chance to deal with this problem and leave them a cleaner, safe, more stable world?”

    I want that answer to simply be yes.

  • Celebrating Five Years of the National Ocean Policy

    It’s an exciting summer for the ocean, and we’re not just talking about Shark Week. President Obama proclaimed June 2015 as National Oceans Month, and, in mid-June, Capitol Hill Ocean Week here in Washington, DC, featured a series of displays and symposia highlighting the multifaceted wonders of the ocean and the challenges of conserving and managing ocean resources.

    This week marks the anniversary of a significant milestone in the journey to improve ocean governance in the United States: five years ago, on July 19, 2010, President Obama signed an Executive Order creating the first National Ocean Policy and a Federal interagency National Ocean Council (NOC), which we co-chair, to implement it.

    To honor this anniversary, we offer some reflections here about the importance of the National Ocean Policy in helping the Nation meet its stewardship responsibilities for the oceans, coasts, and Great Lakes, and the work that the NOC and its partners across the country have done to make this Policy a reality.

  • Modernizing our Electric Transmission Infrastructure and Driving the Development of Clean Energy

    President Obama is committed to improving the nation’s electric grid and spurring the development of renewable energy. Since the President took office, the United States has increased electricity generation from solar energy 20 fold and tripled the amount of electricity we generate from wind. To further build on this progress, the Obama Administration remains committed to modernizing and improving our transmission grid.  Improving our transmission grid will make electricity more reliable, save consumers money, catalyze the transition to a clean energy economy, and reduce the carbon pollution that is leading to climate change. 

    That is why, today, the Administration is announcing new investments in the next generation of power transmission and smart grid technology in 13 states and executive actions that will make it easier and faster to permit transmission lines, including:

  • Join a Google+ Hangout on Building Climate Change Resilience through Community Service

    Last week, the Obama Administration announced a new set of actions to support low-income and other vulnerable communities in preparing for the impacts of climate change. Included in this set of actions are new steps to increase the role of community service in helping these communities prepare through the creation of a Resilience AmeriCorps pilot program.

    On Wednesday afternoon, senior White House officials and key resilience partners will be hosting a White House Google+ Climate Hangout to discuss President Obama's commitment to protecting vulnerable communities from climate change and the Administration's launch of the Resilience AmeriCorps pilot program. We invite you to join the Hangout and participate in the conversation by tweeting your questions and comments using #ActonClimate. This conversation will be moderated by Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director of the White House Council on Environmental Quality.

    Watch the Google+ Hangout on Wednesday, July 15, 2015, at 2:00pm ET.

    Participants include: 

    • Christy Goldfuss, Managing Director, White House Council on Environmental Quality
    • Ali Zaidi, Associate Director, Natural Resources, Energy, and Science, White House Office of Management and Budget
    • John Kelly, Deputy Chief of Staff, Corporation for National and Community Service
    • Sam Carter, Associate Director, The Rockefeller Foundation
    • Peter Goldwasser, Deputy Director, Cities of Service
    • Kate Meis, Executive Director, Local Government Commission
    • Jackie Kozak Thiel, Chief Sustainability Officer, City of Fort Collins, Colorado

  • Federal Sustainability: Leading by Example and Driving Innovation

    This week, CEQ Managing Director Christy Goldfuss and I kicked off the 2015 GreenGov Symposium – an event co-hosted by CEQ and The George Washington University – where we highlighted Federal sustainability achievements and discussed strategies to continue meeting sustainability goals. EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy and Navy Secretary Ray Mabus joined us to emphasize the all-hands-on-deck approach that Federal agencies must take to address climate change.  We were also joined by GW faculty and staff as well as expert panelists from Federal agencies, private companies, and nonprofit organizations. The participants shared best practices for a variety of sustainability fields, including clean energy, vehicle fleet management, and energy efficiency. 

    CEQ_6.12.15GreenGov

    Christy Goldfuss, Kate Brandt, and GW's Kathleen Merrigan discuss federal sustainability initiatives at the 2015 GreenGov Symposium. Photo courtesy of CEQ

    And there was good news to share.  This week, agencies released their 2014 Agency Sustainability Scorecards. The scorecards show that Federal agencies have reduced greenhouse gas emissions by 17.4 percent from 2008 levels. This is the equivalent of taking about 1.9 million cars off the road— roughly the same number of cars registered in the state of Maryland.  Agencies have also reduced water use by 21 percent since 2007 and get nine percent of their electricity from renewable sources.

    For more on how we've achieved this progress, check out the Feds at Work video here

    All of this means we're on track to meet the aggressive new goals President Obama established in March. And agencies aren't stopping there. At the Symposium, the General Services Administration unveiled plans to bring up to 3 megawatts of solar energy to 18 Federal buildings in Washington D.C. In addition, Secretary Mabus announced the Navy’s plan for a project that will bring an estimated 6-8 megawatts (MW) of solar power to Joint Base Anacostia-Bolling, also located in Washington D.C. These projects are a part of the Capital Solar Challenge, which the Administration launched last year to deploy more solar energy at Federal locations across the National Capital Region.

    We also announced that 72 MW of solar has already been deployed on Department of Defense (DOD) privatized housing. To encourage additional deployments, DOD is partnering with CEQ to launch the DOD Privatized Housing Solar Challenge. Through the Challenge, we'll work with privatized housing developers to increase the amount of solar energy generated on privatized military housing through the end of 2016.

    Beyond renewable energy, we also announced that the White House has updated its vehicle fleet to include more fuel efficient and alternative fuel vehicles. These new vehicles will reduce GHG emissions by roughly 40% from 2014 levels and optimize the White House fleet composition.

    President Obama is committed to taking action on the global threat of climate change. The GreenGov Symposium made clear that Federal agencies will continue to lead by example to meet that commitment and do their part to ensure ensure a cleaner, safer, and healthier planet for future generations.

     

  • Unlocking Wind Power Across America

    Advancing turbine technology will unlock 700,000 more square miles of wind potential and make it a reality in all 50 states.

    Now available in 39 states, wind power has emerged as an important source of American clean energy – and there’s potential for even more. Today, the Energy Department released a new report – Enabling Wind Power Nationwide  – that shows how the next generation of wind turbines can help expand wind power in all 50 states.