Valuing National Security: Climate Change, the Military, and Society


This Article proposes a hypothesis: By linking a reduction in reliance on fossil fuels to the value of promoting national security, what I have called the Military-Environmental Complex has the potential to change individual attitudes and beliefs, and therefore behavior and political debate, about energy use and climate change. Studies have shown that individuals with certain values or political ideologies are less likely to believe in the existence of scientific consensus about climate change, have positive attitudes toward addressing climate change as an urgent policy matter, and behave in ways that reduce energy use. Connecting climate change to national security risks and reduced fossil fuel use to strengthening the military can affect these individuals’ attitudes, beliefs, and behavior in these arenas. In particular, two aspects of the Military-Environmental Complex can serve as potential drivers of change: first, the military’s role as an unequivocal validator of climate science, and, second, its current efforts to value the true costs and benefits to its mission of energy conservation and increased use of renewables. Although not necessarily its goal, the Military-Environmental Complex thus has the potential to unleash important spillover effects in the sphere of values, behavior, and policy.

About the Author

Sarah E. Light is an Assistant Professor of Legal Studies and Business Ethics at the Wharton School of Business, University of Pennsylvania. She holds an A.B. from Harvard College, an M. Phil. from Oxford University, and a J.D. from Yale Law School.

By uclalaw