Sec. Robert Gates discusses global warming and long-term national security issues

WASHINGTON - During the presidential campaign, there has been some debate about climate change and the effect it has on U.S. national security. Throughout the Democratic Primary, for example, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vermont, has called it the single greatest national security threat that the U.S. faces. For the most recent broadcast of Face the Nation, host John Dickerson sat down with former Secretary of Defense Robert Gates and asked him about his view on the matter.

"I think the long term consequences are serious." Gates said. The former Secretary cited rising sea levels and droughts as a major cause of political instability abroad. Gates also explained how rising sea levels could present domestic problems as well.

"We've got some very big naval bases in Norfolk and in Florida that potentially would be significantly impacted by a significant rise in the level of the oceans."

Although Gates would go onto say that climate change is not a "top priority," he still called it an "important national security threat."

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"Part of the problem here is that everybody sees things in black and white terms." The former Secretary explained. "To say that it's not the top national security priority, does that mean you just ignore it, or do you deal with it like other long term problems that we face?"

Gates linked the issue of global warming to a bigger problem that he sees with the United States government, the inability to "think strategically."

"One of the great things about some of the national security advisors that I worked for, Kissinger and Scowcroft and Brzezinksi, they were long range thinkers. They were thinking about chapter two, chapter three, and, 'How do I turn a short term crisis into a long term strategic advantage?' I don't see anybody doing that."

For more of our interview with Sec. Robert Gates click here.