NEW LONDON, Conn., May 20 (UPI) -- Speaking Wednesday to a group of graduating Coast Guardsmen, President Barack Obama said climate change would shape their entire careers because it poses "an immediate risk to our national security."
Obama said the "science is indisputable" that climate change is happening. The best scientists in the world, analysts in the intelligence community, military leaders and the Coast Guard know it's happening.
"The fossil fuels we burn release carbon dioxide, which traps heat. And the levels of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere are now higher than they have been in 800,000 years. The planet is getting warmer. Fourteen of the 15 hottest years on record have been in the past 15 years. Last year was the planet's warmest year ever recorded," he said from the U.S. Coast Guard Academy in New London.
Obama said that refusing to act to slow the affects of climate change constitutes a "dereliction of duty."
"And this is not just a problem for countries on the coasts, or for certain regions of the world," he said. "Climate change will impact every country on the planet. No nation is immune. So I'm here today to say that climate change constitutes a serious threat to global security, an immediate risk to our national security. And make no mistake, it will impact how our military defends our country. And so we need to act -- and we need to act now."
The job that the Coast Guard does will be affected by climate change internationally and at home, Obama said, pointing to rising sea levels, the breaking up of Antarctic sea ice and more extreme weather events.
"And you are part of the first generation of officers to begin your service in a world where the effects of climate change are so clearly upon us," he said. "It will shape how every one of our services plan, operate, train, equip, and protect their infrastructure, their capabilities, today and for the long term."
Wednesday's speech was one of a number of recent attempts by Obama to draw attention to the issue of climate change just as Republicans in Congress continue to deny its existence.
On Earth Day last month, he spoke at the Florida Everglades to show support for funding to address climate change and introduce a plan to allow fourth-graders free admission to all public lands.
Obama isn't the only commencement speaker to address the topic this graduation season. On Sunday, Bill Nye told Rutgers University graduates the world is "now deep in the most serious environmental crisis in human history.
"The oncoming trouble is climate change,'' he said. "It is going to affect you all in the same way the Second World War consumed people of my parents' generation. They rose to the challenge and so will you.''