In case you missed it, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Operational Energy Plans and Programs, Sharon Burke, wrote a compelling article for CNN titled: “US Military’s New Foe.” After four years in this important role at the Department of Defense (and years of working on these issues prior to holding that position), Burke’s insights are a particularly compelling addition to this discussion. In the article, Burke details the various ways in which climate change presents a threat to the U.S. military, including direct impacts on military bases:
In a recent report, the Government Accountability Office described what that threat looks like today at U.S. military bases: Air Force runways at remote radar sites being eaten away by encroaching tides. Army training ranges that are flooded, burned by wildfires or bogged down by melting permafrost. Submarines in dry dock, threatened by coastal flooding that might permanently damage the multibillion-dollar machines.
Burke goes on to say that while climate change will impact US military operations, solutions to it go well beyond defense. As she notes, climate change is “fundamentally an economic challenge for civil society and civilian institutions.”
Nonetheless, Burke underlines the important contribution that the military has made (and will need to continue making) in preparing for climate change, stating:
There is, however, an important defense role in dealing with this challenge. Military leaders deserve the plaudits they’ve received for taking action on climate change. The Pentagon’s most important contribution lies not in cutting greenhouse gas emissions, however, but in making sure U.S. armed forces are ready for the consequences of global climate change for defense infrastructure and military missions. And in these areas, the Pentagon has a long way to go.
For more recommendations from Burke on what the military can do to better prepare for climate risks, read the full article.