Backlash for Environmental, Climate Change Tweets From State, VA
Posted at 6:53 a.m. on June 18, 2014
On Monday, the Department of Veterans Affairs tweeted about saving the ocean. On Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry and Bill Nye “The Science Guy” had a Twitter discussion where Nye asked about awareness of climate change in Iran and Iraq. Both were greeted with outrage and sarcasm, sometimes all at once, about whether the VA, Iran and Iraq had bigger things to worry about, like a patient care scandal or the march of ISIL on Baghdad.
The backlash comes at an inconvenient policy moment for the case that there’s a strong connection between national security, foreign policy and climate change.
On Tuesday, the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Operations zeroed out spending for some of the State Department’s climate change work in its version of the annual bill that funds the department and foreign aid. The House recently passed a fiscal 2015 defense policy bill that would block the Defense Department from using money for a variety of climate change-related purposes.
One department very much wants the money, and the other at least wants the right to plan for climate change. As Senate Foreign Affairs chairman, Kerry made climate change one of his top priorities, and he has done the same as Secretary of State. He has spent the last two days at a conference talking about climate change and its effects on oceans as a “vital security issue,” given the connection between how many people make their livelihoods off the ocean and the impact of climate change on available resources.
And the military’s own studies and four-year plans make the case that the Pentagon should be taking climate change into consideration, something officials have said they plan to do. But the tweets this week might’ve done more harm than good for the climate change/national security connection.
Nye’s problem might have been overzealousness, or perhaps an attempt to tie climate change to events in the headlines. His tweet was called “tone-deaf and sad” by one person, far from the only critical rejoinder.
Kerry sort of responded to that particular tweet from Nye, but did answer another tweet about why he was talking about climate change while Iraq was in such dire straits.
The VA’s problem was, apparently, being part of a government-wide effort to distribute tweets about particular issues at particular times, even if the tweet doesn’t much pertain to the department at hand.
Some of the backlash, too, was the inevitable byproduct of skepticism about climate change on the right. But some of it was self-inflicted, no matter any wholesome motives or genuine disagreement. It probably won’t have a strong influence on the administration’s aims on climate change/national security with Congress, but it probably won’t help, either.