A professor in the School of Communication Studies at Ohio University recently told a class that “global warming is worse than war.” After students confronted Dr. Austin Babrow with concerns regarding his statement, he quickly walked his comments back.
Babrow, who holds a Ph.D. in speech communication, specializes in environmental communication according to his campus biography. It’s noted that “he has become active in the local and national movement to limit climate disruption (e.g., advocating for sustainable energy, working to limit high pressure slickwater fracking).”
In a document sent to students after making the controversial statement, Babrow clarified his remarks, calling it a “teachable moment” and inviting students to chat with him over coffee. In addition, he largely walked back the claim as an absolute and added many qualifiers.
“What I was trying to say yesterday is that climate change is potentially quite a bit worse than war,” Babrow explained in his note to students, obtained by the Washington Examiner.
He goes on to say that climate change makes war more likely, and calls efforts to mitigate climate change “heroic.”
“[C]limate change can’t be any less bad than war because unchecked climate change will bring about war. And war is war…[t]he stakes are considerably higher than any war humans have yet waged, matched only by all-out nuclear war,” he wrote.
Babrow also referenced both a report from the Trump Administration’s U.S. Global Research Program and a Department of Defense study titled “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.”
Several students spoke to the Washington Examiner expressing concern over Babrow’s callousness and flippant attitude towards war. However, they refrained from commenting on the record due to concerns of potential retaliation.
Ohio University has 848 students that have spent time in the military at some point, according to the Veterans and Military Student Services Center, and is ranked as a top ten school in its category of tier 2 research institutions by the organization Military Friendly.
The Military Friendly Schools designation is awarded to top colleges, universities, community colleges, and trade schools in the country that do the most to embrace military students and to dedicate resources to ensure their success both in the classroom and after graduation.
Students on campus at Ohio University are represented by Rep. Steve Stivers, a Brigadier General in the Ohio National Guard. Stivers has served for more than 30 years and was stationed overseas during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
A spokesman for Stivers could not immediately be reached for comment.