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Experts discuss climate change, national security link at ASU event

LISTEN: Climate change and how it effects national security

PHOENIX — A group of experts at Arizona State University discussed how climate change is reshaping the energy industry, military, government and economy at a panel discussion on Thursday.

Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Norman Seip was among the panelists at the ASU Global Security Initiative event.

Seip said units in Afghanistan are beginning to use renewable energy in their effort to man certain bases.

But Army Ofc. Natalie Maleu, who attended the event, said battery technology for certain devices, including high-tech weapons, gun sights and radios, pose a problem because they lack a standardized power source and add weight to a soldier’s pack.

However, Dr. Gary Dirks with the university’s Global Institute of Sustainability said the days of government involvement in energy technology are coming to an end as the energy industry works to close that gap.

“Without a doubt, we entering now into an era where [fossil fuel alternatives] are going to be competitive and we’re not going to need a lot more government support,” he said. “Now the question is just how fast is it going to go?”

Dirks, also a former executive with British Petroleum, said the entire energy industry is being remade by onrushing technological advances.

He cited an example where Google Energy used its own artificial intelligence to slash its power consumption bills by 40 percent.

Dirks said the technology evaluates and makes energy-saving decisions by the minute — something humans are not capable of.

However, many panel members said they felt President Donald Trump made a crucial mistake by withdrawing from the Paris Climate Accord, an international pact to fight climate change.

Leaving the accord isolated the U.S. from companies that are working on new energy solutions, the panel concluded.

That has left cities, counties and states working to implement their own alternative energy programs to fill the void left by the Trump administration’s exit, the group said.

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