On April 9th, Admiral Samuel Locklear III, Commander of U.S. Pacific Command (PACOM), gave testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee regarding the role of U.S. Pacific Command “in review of the defense authorization request for fiscal year 2014, and the Future Years Defense program.” In response to a question from Senator Inhofe regarding recent statements made by the Admiral on the security threat of climate change in the Asia-Pacific region, Admiral Locklear reaffirmed the importance of the issue from U.S.PACOM’s perspective. From page 10-11:
In the Indo-Asia Pacific region, as we go from about—projections are we’re going to go from about 7 billion people in the world to about 9 or 10 by the century, and about 70 percent of them are going to live in this part of the world.
About 80 percent of them today live within about 200 miles of the coast, and that trend is increasing as people move towards the economic centers which are near the ports and facilities that support globalization. So we’re seeing that trend of people moving into littoral areas.
We are also seeing—if you go to USAID and you ask the numbers for my PACOM AOR how many people died due to natural disasters from 2008 to 2012, it was about 280,000 people died. Now, they weren’t all climate change or weather-related, but a lot of them were due to that. About 800,000 people were displaced and there was about $500 billion of lost productivity. So when I look and I think about our planning and I think about what I have to do with allies and partners and I look long-term, it’s important that the countries in this region build the capabilities into their infrastructure to be able to deal with the types of things that—
As the United States strategically rebalances toward the Asia-Pacific, it will face a new set of transnational challenges, including those that stem from the effects of climate change, and Admiral Locklear is a step ahead in recognizing and addressing this new security landscape.
EDIT: Admiral Locklear’s remarks on climate change can be listened to here, and begin at 31:29.