Truman National Security Project

Daines Hiding in Foxhole Over Climate Change


This piece is about one issue, and how two leaders have responded to it. The scientific consensus, with 97 percent of climate scientists in agreement, is that our planet is heating up to dangerous levels because of the greenhouse gases we’re emitting into the atmosphere.

The two leaders are: Steve Daines, Montana’s lone member of the U.S. House of Representatives, and former Army Capt. Mike Breen, who is now serving as the spokesman of Operation Free, a nationwide coalition of veterans and national security experts who recognize that climate change is a major threat, and support fast, bold action.

Breen is a friend of mine; we served together in the 173rd Airborne Brigade, and deployed to Afghanistan together in 2005. Last week, Breen had this to say about climate change:

“Our military leaders agree: Climate change is a threat to our national security and if left unchecked, will increase instability and conflict in the most volatile regions of the world. In nearly every crisis precipitated by climate change, the military will be called upon to respond with disaster relief and recovery assistance, or to maintain vital supply lines that are the backbone of our economy. This places a direct burden on our military.”

Our lone congressman, by contrast, is AWOL on climate change. He’s hiding in his foxhole. He did sign the No Climate Tax Pledge, and after the president’s call for action on Tuesday, he “boldly” took to the House floor to criticize the president for “waging war on Montana energy.” But Daines hasn’t quite mustered the courage to either propose a plan to deal with climate change or explain why he thinks 97 percent of climate scientists have it wrong. He seems to like hanging back while others take fire.

Don’t get me wrong, plenty of leaders I respect disagree with the president’s approach to climate change. In Montana, many good men and women agree to disagree on big issues. But in my opinion, it’s just not acceptable for a leader to sit back and criticize without taking a position and offering a solution. That’s especially true when the stakes are so high. If Daines doesn’t think scientists have it right about climate change, I challenge him to make that argument to Montanans.

If he thinks they’re right and that the increasing carbon emissions around the world will mean the next generation will grow up in a very different world than we grew up in, then let’s hear his proposal for addressing the problem.

Afghanistan was a tough war for every leader. We all faced times that we felt stuck between a rock and a hard place. All options were tough ones. But sometimes real leaders face difficult decisions and real leaders don’t duck and cover – they step up and lead. When it comes to climate change we need bold leaders. We’re facing difficult decisions, but some options are a lot worse than others. I’m proud of the work Breen’s doing to make America stronger while taking on one of the toughest issues of our generation. I’m sure the time Breen spent leading troops in combat has helped him show such strong leadership on climate change.

Daines could and should learn a lot from my friend Breen. When it comes to climate change, I hope all Montanans will join me in calling on Congressman Daines to lead, follow or get out of the way. We can’t afford to have our only Congressman AWOL on fighting for the world our kids will grow up in.

Andrew Person is an Iraq and Afghanistan War veteran from Helena and a fellow with the Truman National Security Project. He served as national security policy adviser to U.S. Sen. Max Baucus from 2007 to 2012. He is also a Truman Security Fellow. This article originally appeared in the Missoulian.