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National Security Expert Speaks on Consequences of Climate Change

October 11, 2010

SOUTH ROYALTON, VT -- "We'd better get ready."

That's Vermont Law School Professor Stephen Dycus' advice for U.S. authorities who are analyzing the national security implications of the globe's changing climate.

Dycus, an expert on national security and environmental law, is available to discuss defense planning for a warmer planet and America's need for policies to strengthen national security in the face of rising seas, extreme weather events and other climate-related impacts.

At an American Bar Association presentation in November, Dycus will discuss whether President Obama has the statutory authority under the War Powers Resolution to send U.S. troops into action abroad in response to national security concerns related to climate change.

"We should consider requiring Congressional approval and oversight in such decisions," he said. "The statutory authority isn't clear or focused, so we should be frank about the political reality: Once the president deploys troops, it's very hard to call them back. It takes an act of peculiar political courage to vote for troop withdrawal once we've spilled blood. I think instances of this kind are going to be many and unpredictable."

Dycus' presentation, titled "NEPA, Climate Change, and National Security," will be given at an annual review conference of the ABA's Standing Committee on Law and National Security in Washington, D.C.

A number of studies indicate climate change's impact will grow in coming decades, affecting government stability, conflicts, mass migration, humanitarian needs, sovereignty claims, pandemics, military installations, poverty, environmental degradation and competition for oil, food and other resources in many regions of the world. Dycus cited the U.S. military's intervention in drought-stricken Somalia in 1992-1994; Arctic melting that completely opened a Northwest Passage in 2007, creating security, natural resource and shipping concerns; and recent flooding in Pakistan, where President Obama sent U.S. troops and more than $345 million in aid.

"Pakistan is just a preview," Dycus said. "Climate change will create a chain reaction of events that cause U.S. troops to be deployed in more humanitarian and peacekeeping missions."

The National Intelligence Council completed the first assessment of the national security implications of climate change in 2008. The Defense Department, which has sometimes resisted compliance with the National Environmental Policy Act, has studied climate change's potential consequences for years, but Dycus said the nation must adopt a long-term strategic plan.

CONTACT: John Cramer, Associate Director of Media Relations
802-831-1106, jcramer@vermontlaw.edu

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