Pentagon says China and climate change 'equally important' national security threats

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The Pentagon said Wednesday it considers China and climate change to be “equally important” national security threats facing the U.S. Department of Defense. 

“Both are equally important,” press secretary John Kirby told Fox News. “Both are challenges that the secretary wants the senior leadership at the Pentagon to be focused on, as well as many others too.

“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,” he said when Fox News’ Lucas Tomlinson asked whether China or the climate was a bigger threat to the U.S.

U.S. Department of Defense press secretary John Kirby
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

“You’ve heard the secretary talk about the climate as a real and existential national security threat,” he continued. “And it is – not just to the United States, but to countries all over the world.”

Kirby’s comments came just one day after Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi conceded that the U.S. military is “a larger polluter than 140 countries combined,” during her trip to Scotland for the United Nations Climate Summit. 

“We have been nothing but honest about the fact that we are the largest emitter here, in the federal government,” Kirby said “We know that. And that’s…one of the reasons why we’re taking the climate crisis so very seriously, because we are a contributor to those emissions and we know that.”

Kirby’s comments came just one day after Speaker Pelosi conceded that the U.S. military is "a larger polluter than 140 countries combined."

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks on Tuesday touted the military’s plan to launch a fleet of electric vehicles as part of President Biden’s push to counter climate change. 

Tactical vehicles will be the first to become hybrid, to ease the reliable transition between fully electric and fossil fuel-reliant vehicles. 

Roughly 170,000 nontactical cars and trucks used on bases will become fully electric, though it is unclear when this goal will be achieved.

While speaking to the automobile industry in Detroit, Hicks said the U.S. is looking to have the DOD reach net-zero greenhouse gas emissions by 2050.

The deputy defense secretary said as the administration looks to relinquish its reliance on fossil fuels, it will need to beef up its supply chains for lithium batteries. 

“Batteries are also essential to thousands of military systems, from handheld radios to unmanned submersibles, and to future capabilities like lasers, directed energy weapons, and hybrid electric tactical vehicles,” she explained.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks.
(Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Hicks said the U.S. is working to shore up its domestic supply of lithium batteries to take on not just climate change, but China.   

“It is estimated [that] investments committed to the global lithium-ion battery supply chain are approaching a trillion dollars,” she continued. “The problem, however, is that China presently dominates that supply chain.”

Defense officials have contested climate change poses a security threat to not only U.S. military facilities today, but to the future of the institution as it addresses prolonged instability worldwide. 

“Every dollar we spend recovering from the effects of climate change is one dollar the department is not investing to meet other priorities,” Hicks said. “In the face of these increasingly challenging conditions, the Department of Defense must remain ready to defend the nation.”

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