15 October 2014

Defense Secretary Lays Out National Security Threats of Global Warming


Climate change is now being looked at as a national security threat. Rising global temperatures, increasing sea levels and intensifying weather activities will challenge global stability, says Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The changes could even lead to food and water shortages, disease and clashes over refugees and resources.

On Monday, Hagel unveiled a “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” to several defense ministers at an international meeting in Peru. He stressed leaders inside and outside the military need to set aside the intense political debate over the issue. Hagel says our armed forces have to prepare for all possible threats to keep our country secure. This includes our military bracing for a global warming crisis that will cause sea levels to rise 12 to 18 inches over the next 20 to 50 years.

Flooding and erosion will threaten military installations’ infrastructure and training areas, including port facilities such as San Diego, Hawaii and Norfolk, Virginia. The number of humanitarian assistance missions will increase. Climate changes can create new health risks by expanding infectious disease zones and boosting health service demands. Bases in the West will have to consider new water management programs to handle droughts, as dust can ruin military equipment and increase equipment costs.

Hagel outlined a list of potential changes for the Defense Department, including how all branches will be affected:

Marine Corps: Rising sea levels could make it harder to mount amphibious landings.

Air Force: Changing weather patterns could make it more difficult to fly for investigation and surveillance missions.

Navy: New ship technology might be needed to maneuver in the Arctic icy waters, in facing new zones of competition as new fossil fuel and mineral deposits become accessible.

Army: Soldiers may need to help manage instability caused by flooding in densely populated coastal areas, where mass-migration creates chaos and a breeding ground for extremist groups.

National Guard: More severe weather, such as hurricanes, tornadoes and wildfires, will cause serious damage that will require more support from members.

The Pentagon is assessing the vulnerability of more than 7,000 bases and installations around the world. As the assessment winds down, leaders are reviewing all budget plans, war game scenarios and off-the-shelf operational contingency plans to determine if revisions are needed in light of projected impact of global warming.

Can key decision-makers put aside their political differences and focus on preparing for climate changes? Given what Hagel has outlined, how will preparing for global warming threats affect you and your service?

Comment below or join the discussion here and connect within the military community.

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