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Retired Marine general outlines threat to national security posed by climate

Retired Marine Gen. Robert Magnus holds a town hall meeting on global climate change at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on Thursday. Magnus is a member of the military advisory board for the Center for Naval Analyses.
Retired Marine Gen. Robert Magnus holds a town hall meeting on global climate change at the Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island on Thursday. Magnus is a member of the military advisory board for the Center for Naval Analyses. JONATHAN DYER | The Beaufort Gazette

Global climate change affects national security, a former four-star general and assistant commandant of the Marine Corps told about 150 people gathered Thursday at Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island.

"Anytime you have environmental instability, the young men and women who wear uniforms that look like that," said retired Gen. Robert Magnus, referring to the Marines in attendance, "are called on to do their thing.

"They shouldn't have to worry about the security of the energy they need to do their jobs."

Magnus, who retired in July 2008 after serving as the Corps' second-in-command, spoke for more than an hour inside the depot's chapel about the relationship between climate change, energy and national security. Magnus serves on the Military Advisory Board of the Center for Naval Analyses, a federally funded research group that studies the Navy and other defense agencies.

"We need to have a better handle on three things as it relates to energy: Our power generation and what our energy sources are, our problems with energy transmission, and our consumption problem," Magnus said. "I'm proud to say that the Marine Corps is a leader in these areas; they aren't the only ones, but they're certainly a leader. Here at Parris Island, they've cut their energy consumption by 33 percent in a little over 20 years."

Beaufort Mayor Billy Keyserling said the base's neighboring communities could learn from the military's increased emphasis on energy efficiency.

"The Department of Defense is going where we all ought to go in terms of energy efficiency and conservation," Keyserling said.

During his talk, Magnus frequently stressed the need to explore alternative sources of energy to lessen the nation's dependence on foreign fossil fuels and for Americans to monitor their own energy use.

"We've got to change the way we live. It doesn't mean we have to lower our standard of living, but if we don't do this, it will lower our standard of living," Magnus said. "It's a long road, but it's a road worth taking."

Beaufort County Councilman Brian Flewelling said Magnus' message should be heard throughout the county.

"It's not enough to take home what we heard here today, but we have to spread the word," Flewelling said. "There were only 150 to 200 people in here today, but there are thousands across the county who could benefit from what we heard today."

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