Commentary: Veterans ask Romney: How will you protect us from climate change?

(Francisco Kjolseth | The Salt Lake Tribune) Aerial photo of Hill Air Force Base

Climate change is a threat to national security but, this time, it really hits home here in Utah.

In January of this year, the Department of Defense issued a report to Congress stating that “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations.” The Salt Lake Tribune highlighted this report earlier this month.

Utah’s Hill Air Force Base has been ranked the most vulnerable facility, not just within the Air Force but in the entire U.S. military. It is the only base that is subject to, and is already facing, four of the five major threats of climate change: flooding, drought, desertification and wildfires.

As local Utah military members and veterans, we know a thing or two about threats. Most importantly, we know how to recognize a threat and how to react, mitigate, and even prevent one from happening. We do this every day in order to protect the people and communities we love, and we expect our leaders to do the same thing. But are they?

We are calling on one of Utah’s leaders, U.S. Sen. Mitt Romney, to make this hazardous situation, a situation that puts the working and living environment of Hill’s 21,000 soldiers and civilians in peril, one of his top priorities. These patriots who work every day to keep us safe should be protected from hot, dry, fire-prone conditions and the health problems, decreased productivity and property damage that accompany them.

In January of 2015, Romney said, “I'm one of those Republicans who thinks we are getting warmer and that we contribute to that.” And just this February, a local Utah NPR station reported that when meeting with Utah legislators, “Romney said reducing the greenhouse gases blamed for climate change will require the United States and other nations — especially China, India and developing countries — to work together.”

We applaud these and other clear and fact-based statements Romney has made about climate change. These threats are not unique to Hill Air Force Base, but affect all public and private enterprises that provide jobs and services here in this beautiful state we call home. Romney has the leadership experience and necessary media attention to move the national conversation and policies on this issue forward, quickly and in a non-partisan way.

We are proud to have been part of the legacy of the United States’ armed forces in setting aside our personal differences in order to protect our way of life, defeat serious challenges, and solve problems together. We ask Senator Romney to draw on that spirit and resolve to tackle what has now clearly become just as dangerous to us as any enemy fighting force.

The enemy of climate change is fast approaching and if we don’t defeat it soon, there will be no winners, only losers.

Submitted by Justin Krier, sergeant, Marine Corps veteran; Travis Parsons, sergeant, Army veteran; Gary Jarvis, senior airman, Air Force veteran; Brandon Smith, petty officer third class, Navy veteran; Kyle Wynn, sergeant, Marine Corps veteran; and Daniel C. Pohorelsky, techincal sergeant, Air Force Reserve.