By Alex Kuffner
NARRAGANSETT, R.I. — The former head of oceanography and meteorology for the Navy argued for more funding for research to understand the impact of climate change while delivering the keynote speech at a science symposium at the University of Rhode Island on Tuesday.
“It’s not just science at stake. It’s our survival,” Rear Admiral (Ret.) Jonathan White said to hundreds of people at the event at the Graduate School of Oceanography campus in Narragansett.
White is president and CEO of the Consortium for Ocean Leadership, a Washington, D.C.-based group that advocates for ocean research, education and policy. His name was mentioned last year in connection with the top position at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, but President Donald Trump instead nominated Accuweather CEO Barry Myers.
Standing in front of images of the destruction wrought last week by Hurricane Michael at Tyndall Air Force Base, in Florida, and flooding around Naval Station Norfolk, in Virginia, he said that climate change is a threat to coastal military installations and, in a larger sense, to national security overall.
“Our military, the more and more they have to deal with infrastructure and the effects of climate change, whether it’s helping others or trying to get in and out of our bases, the less ready they are going to be to go on missions … all over the world,” he said.
It was a point that was also raised by U.S. Rep. James R. Langevin, who has pushed for an assessment of the military’s vulnerabilities to climate change.
“The dangers to national security are real and we must support the researchers who improve our understanding of the threat and ways to mitigate it,” he said.
The symposium’s focus was not just on security issues but on the effects of sea-level rise, more powerful storms and increased rainfall on coastal communities in general.