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Former DOD Official Sharon Burke: Climate is Military’s New Foe

Sharon Burke_Katherine Hammack_listen to a brief_Experimental Forward Operating Base 2011 at Marine CorpsIn 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.


  1. Leif Knutsen says:

    Coroprations have yet learned to play nice with others.

    The only “just war” is a war of the survival of humanity and Earth’s Life Support systems. Both under threat by our privatized profits, socialized lose paradigm and the ability of the few to profit from the pollution and exploitation of the commons. A “We All Win War,” WAWW, can, and in fact, must be fought on all fronts with the mantra of minimal death and maximum good to all life, starting with the poorest of the poor or closest to extinction receiving the most attention. If the military oath to protect the Nation and its people from threats both foreign and domestic has credence then the military ethic must transform itself from a killing machine to a sustainable greening machine. (Who would not want to serve?)
    Justify those $600+ billion $$$ we give you each year. Do something for your country. You got grand kids don’t you?

    There is precedence here as well.. One only need go back to the CCC days. Large unemployment. The Nation reeling from the economic disruption of the 20s. Lack of skilled work force in changing economies. Crumbling infrastructure. Concentration of wealth in the hands of the few. Need I go on?
    CCC addressed all that in one “green” effort. The same could address the transformation to the Green Awakening Economy. People can be employed learning and building needed skills. Vast green energy infrastructure could be built using the inexpensive labor of the unemployed. Health care and skill base of the population transformed to the Nation’s and World’s advantage.

    We can do that and again become a leader, but more importantly an ally in the “We All Win War” with the rest of the world.

    Albert Einstein: “I do not know the weapons of WWIII but WW IV will be fought with sticks and stones.” I vote for WW III, in which we are currently embroiled IMO, to be continually fought with Equality, Justice, Scientific thinking, Peace and Love. WW IV with sonnets.

  2. Vlad Fomin says:

    In my opinion, really assess the risks – for mankind and its destiny – only soldiers who have or have had related to strategic planning. As with all military, they tend to constant feeling of danger. Naturally, they are absorbed assessment of possible hazards and thoughts about their prevention. Certainly, among the people, there are other groups that assess risks and take the necessary measures … from drivers and ending with the Mafia. But the benefits have only the necessary military; especially – stress – those who work professionally with doctrinal themes and strategic planning. These people – extremely necessary … I draw your attention to the fact that Britain – the last 12 thousand years – only five times has been completely covered with snow. And these events occurred during the last four winters. Even during the Little Ice Age (1740 plus – minus) Britain was not completely covered with snow. I believe that the provision to the “right” militarys – this information probably would be the basis for formulating the necessary recommendations. Moreover, the centralization of research on the collection, processing, aggregation of information on “paleoclimatology” and fair presentation of these to militarys – certainly would ensure the adoption of much needed, and perhaps unexpected and useful ideas and language … in the very near future.

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