Climate and China are ‘equally important’ threats to US

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Climate and China are ‘equally important’ threats to US

The chief Pentagon spokesman said Wednesday that climate change and China are “equally important” threats to the United States, adding that it “doesn’t do anybody good” to make a “relative” assessment of national security issues. 

John Kirby was pressed during a briefing on comments made by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi during the COP26 UN Climate Change Conference in Scotland this week, during which she stated that the US military is a “larger polluter than 140 countries combined.” 

Kirby told reporters that he had not seen the comments, but said that the Pentagon knows they “are the largest emitter here in the federal government.”

“That’s why we’re taking the climate — one of the reasons why we’re taking the climate crisis so very seriously, because we are — we are a contributor to those emissions.” 

Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby
Pentagon Press Secretary John Kirby said it “doesn’t do anybody good” to make a “relative” assessment of national security issues.
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Kirby added that that the Department of Defense believes climate change is a national security threat due to the potential damage to US facilities and “instability and security that it will cause in other places around the world — which will no doubt require US military assistance going forward.” 

Fox News reporter Lucas Tomlinson then asked whether China or climate change was a bigger threat to the US, as defense officials continue to worry about potential missile tests and attacks by Beijing.

“I think we get paid to examine all the threats to our national security, and I don’t know that it does anybody good to put some sort of relative analysis assessment on that,” said Kirby, who emphasized that climate is a “real and existential national security threat.

“And we consider China as the number one pacing challenge for the department,” he added. “Both are equally important.”

Not long after, Tomlinson asked Kirby again to identify the worst threat between climate and China. 

“Lucas, I think I answered your question,” Kirby answered. 

Wednesday’s briefing came as nearly two dozen Democratic members of Congress attend the COP26, led by House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Chinese troops
Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned China’s military could soon surpass the US. 
AFP via Getty Images

Throughout the conference, lawmakers have emphasized that the US is “back” in its fight against climate change. 

Last month, the 94th Army Air and Missile Defense Command announced the “temporary, experimental deployment” of an Iron Dome defense system purchased by Congress in 2019 in Guam. While the move appears to have been done to fulfill legal requirements to deploy an Iron Dome system by the end of the year, the test will also provide an outlook on the US’s capabilities to stop a missile attack from China. 

Gen. John Hyten, vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has warned of the pace China’s military growth, saying it could soon surpass the US. 

An air tanker drops retardant on the Alisal Fire
“One of the reasons why we’re taking the climate crisis so very seriously, because we are — we are a contributor to those emissions,” Kirby said.
AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu

“What you need to be worried about is that in the last five years, or maybe longer, the United States has done nine hypersonic missile tests, and in the same time the Chinese have done hundreds,” Hyten said.  “The pace they’re moving and the trajectory they’re on will surpass Russia and the United States if we don’t do something to change it. It will happen.”

Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has also called the Chinese military movement “concerning.”

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