Ad Check: Fiorina Mocks Climate Threat As "Weather"

June 03, 2010 11:44 am ET

On June 2, 2010, California Republican Senate candidate Carly Fiorina released an ad mocking her Democratic opponent, Sen. Barbara Boxer, for discussing climate change as a threat to American national security.  While Fiorina derides Boxer for worrying about "the weather," national security experts take the threat of climate change seriously.

Fiorina Ad: "Safe"

Woman: Barbara Boxer on national security?

Sen. Boxer: One of the very important national security issues we face, frankly, is climate change. 

Fiorina: Terrorism kills.  And Barbara Boxer is worried about the weather.  I'm Carly Fiorina.  I ran Hewlett Packard.  I chaired the external advisory board for the CIA.  We've had enough of her politics.  I'll work to keep you safe.  I'm Carly Fiorina, and I approve this message.  [Fiorina Ad: "Safe," 6/2/10]

Defense Experts: Climate Change Is A Serious Threat

"Climate-Induced Crises Could Topple Governments, Feed Terrorist Movements." As reported by the New York Times:

The changing global climate will pose profound strategic challenges to the United States in coming decades, raising the prospect of military intervention to deal with the effects of violent storms, drought, mass migration and pandemics, military and intelligence analysts say.

Such climate-induced crises could topple governments, feed terrorist movements or destabilize entire regions, say the analysts, experts at the Pentagon and intelligence agencies who for the first time are taking a serious look at the national security implications of climate change.

Recent war games and intelligence studies conclude that over the next 20 to 30 years, vulnerable regions, particularly sub-Saharan Africa, the Middle East and South and Southeast Asia, will face the prospect of food shortages, water crises and catastrophic flooding driven by climate change that could demand an American humanitarian relief or military response. [New York Times, 8/8/09; emphasis added]

Department Of Defense: "Climate Change...Will Play A Significant Role In Shaping The Future Security Environment." According to the Quadrennial Defense Review issued in February 2010: "Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment. Although they produce distinct types of challenges, climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked. The actions that the Department takes now can prepare us to respond effectively to these challenges in the near term and in the future." [Department of Defense via, February 2010]

Department of Defense: Climate Change "May Act As An Accelerant" Of Conflict.  According to the Quadrennial Defense Review issued in February 2010: "Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration. While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world." [Department of Defense via, February 2010; emphasis added]

CIA Launched Center On Climate Change and National Security.  Although Fiorina cites her service on a CIA advisory board, she neglects to mention that the CIA launched a Center on Climate Change and National Security in 2009.  From a CIA press release:

The Central Intelligence Agency is launching The Center on Climate Change and National Security as the focal point for its work on the subject. The Center is a small unit led by senior specialists from the Directorate of Intelligence and the Directorate of Science and Technology.

Its charter is not the science of climate change, but the national security impact of phenomena such as desertification, rising sea levels, population shifts, and heightened competition for natural resources. The Center will provide support to American policymakers as they negotiate, implement, and verify international agreements on environmental issues. That is something the CIA has done for years. "Decision makers need information and analysis on the effects climate change can have on security. The CIA is well positioned to deliver that intelligence," said Director Leon Panetta. [, 9/25/10; emphasis added]