During his confirmation hearing on July 11, the President’s nominee for Secretary of the Navy Richard Spencer, a former Marine captain, agreed that the impacts of climate change threaten military readiness, and must be addressed. Captain Spencer follows in Secretary of Defense James Mattis’s footsteps, and a long line of thinking at the Department stretching back to 2003. His comments are also consistent with the Center for Climate and Security’s 2016 “Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission,” which brought together retired flag and general officers from across all the service branches.
See a CCS transcript of the exchange between Senator Warren and Captain Spencer below (at 1:25:49 in the video).
Sen. Warren: Mr. Spencer, do you believe the climate is changing and that climate change will continue to affect the Navy’s installations and missions?
Captain Spencer: Senator, the Navy, from my briefings to date, is totally aware of the rising water issue, storm issues, et cetera. We must protect our infrastructure, and I will work hard to make sure we are keeping an eye on that because without the infrastructure, we lose readiness.
Sen. Warren: So I take that as a yes?
Captain Spencer: Yes, all about readiness.
Sen. Warren: And, if confirmed, under your leadership will the Navy prepare for climate change? I think this is where you are going about readiness. And I want to say that both in terms of repairing our own bases and installations and preparing for the crisis and the insecurity that climate change will exacerbate around the world.
Captain Spencer: Yes, Senator.
Sen. Warren: Good. You know, in his farewell speech in front of sailors and marines, former Navy Secretary Mabus warned that if we don’t act on climate change, instability around the globe will inevitably intensify and even out bases will risk being lost. I think he’s right, and I’m counting on you Mr. Spencer to carry on where Secretary Mabus left off and to ensure that we adapt to this threat and we are ready.
Captain Spencer: Thank you, Senator.