When I heard President Obama call for more regular dialogue between the Chinese and American militaries, my first thought was, “Why not the environment?”

Perhaps it is not a front-burner issue for both institutions — but that is exactly the point. If dialogue is to improve understanding, build ties, and lower the prospects for confrontation, starting with issues that aren’t contentious in military terms can be a positive first step. As opposed to what typically happens when I have an idea for an oped (i.e., nothing), I got in touch with Dr. Kent Butts, a friend and colleague at the US Army War College who has been teaching environmental security courses there for going on 15 years. Together we banged out a piece for the Christian Science Monitor proposing that largest total emitter and the largest per capita emitter of greenhouse gases get to know each other better through some good old-fashioned joint exercises on natural disaster preparedness. Such training is likely to come in handy in a warming world.