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Home » climate and security » Release: Mayors, Military Leaders and City Officials Raise Concerns about Sea Level Rise Threats to South Carolina’s Military and Civilian Communities

Release: Mayors, Military Leaders and City Officials Raise Concerns about Sea Level Rise Threats to South Carolina’s Military and Civilian Communities

SC Fact Sheet Cover ImageEvent: “Sea Level Rise & Security in South Carolina: Implications for Military and Civilian Communities”
Date and time: August 7, 2018; 2-7pm ET (Video available here)
Location: The Citadel’s Holliday Alumni Center, 69 Hagood Ave, Charleston, SC
Hosts: The Center for Climate and Security in partnership with the Henry M. Jackson Foundation and the Charleston Resilience Network
Agenda and speakers:  Here.
South Carolina fact sheet: Here.

Charleston, SC – In a 2018 Senate Armed Services Committee meeting on ‘Current Readiness of the U.S. Forces,’ General Glenn Walters, Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps, said “I’ve taken two briefs in the last eight months on what I consider our most critical vulnerability, and that’s Parris Island, South Carolina.” A new Military Expert Panel report from the Center for Climate and Security, Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition highlights risks to all of South Carolina’s key coastal military sites, including to the energy and transportation infrastructure that these installations depend on (see here for a South Carolina fact sheet from the report). This clear reality has brought together the Mayors of Beaufort and Charleston, South Carolina, as well as military leaders and city officials, to urgently discuss risks and solutions in Charleston.

In advance of the event, speakers issued statements demonstrating their growing concerns.

“Sea Level Rise and extreme weather adaptation and resilience for the Department of Defense requires a “whole of government and community” approach, both inside and outside the fence line, across the full extent of federal, state, local government and society writ large. DoD takes this ‘Responsibility to Prepare’ seriously – the threat is real – but it can’t do it alone in any region, and it has no time to waste.”  – Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, US Navy (Ret), The Center for Climate and Security

“Sea-level rise, increased storm intensity, and accelerating flooding are all threats to the critical military installations we find along the South Carolina coast.  We need to focus on these problems now and increase the resilience of South Carolina’s bases before their challenge becomes a crisis.” John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment

“In the Beaufort area it’s no longer possible to ignore the reality of Sea Level Rise—even when we don’t have weather “events” such as Hurricane Matthew.  Anyone driving on Parris Island Gateway and looking at the PI causeway during full moon or new moon high tide knows we’re already seeing the effects.” Ginnie Kozak, Planning Director, Lowcountry Council of Governments

“When trying to awaken our community and others to the realities of  sea level rise, I’ve likened the non-believers to the diabetic in denial, who, if he or she acknowledged the disease, could be treated and in most cases lead a relatively normal life. We owe it to ourselves and our communities, which is to say nothing of the next generation for whom infrastructure needs, and I’m not talking about roads, bridges, transpiration, will be to prepare for and address the challenges nature is presenting them. The longer we wait, the more threatening the challenge. Some areas of south Florida are about gone and others will follow if action, costing billions of dollars, is not taken. And then the question is where will they go, having lost their homes – normally a family’s most significant asset – with limited resources to resettle and inland communities not prepared to accept such a migration? It’s time to wake up!” — Billy Keyserling, Mayor of Beaufort, SC

The first session, Preparing for a Climate Changed Future: Addressing Climate Risks to the Military’s Mission, will be a conversation about the risks the military faces from sea level rise in South Carolina, the possibilities of vulnerabilities in the future, and how we can build resilience in the military and coastal communities. The conversation will be led by Brigadier General Stephen Cheney, USMC (Ret) ,  (CEO, American Security Project and former Commanding General, Marine Corps Recruit Depot Parris Island) and moderated by Heather L. Messera, (Senior Fellow for Government Affairs, The Center for Climate and Security).

The second panel, Readiness and Resilience for Southeastern Military Installations and Communities, will focus on the risks presented by sea level rise, and new ideas and ways for communities, states, and the military to work together to mitigate these risks. The panel’s moderator is Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, USN (Ret), (Advisory Board Member, The Center for Climate and Security, and former Director of Surface Warfare, Chief of Naval Operations Staff). Panelists include: Mayor Billy Keyserling, (Mayor of Beaufort, SC); Mayor John J. Tecklenburg, (Mayor of Charleston, SC); David Johnston, (Charleston Resilience Network); Ginnie Kozak, (Planning Director, Lowcountry Council of Governments, Project Manager for the MCRD Parris Island and MCAS Joint Land Use Study)

The event will end with a film screening of Tidewater and an ensuing discussion. Tidewater focuses on rising sea levels, the challenges posed by it, and the military’s response to it in the Hampton Roads, VA area, and the discussion will focus on transferable lessons for coastal communities in South Carolina. The discussion will be led by Colonel Mark “Puck” Mykleby, USMC (Ret), (Former Special Strategic Assistant to the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Advisory Board Member, The Center for Climate and Security) and Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, USN (Ret).

Military Expert Panel Report, Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition, report details:

In February 2018, The Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel, made up of senior retired flag and general officers from each of the Armed Services, issued the 2nd edition of their report, Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, concluding that sea level rise risks to coastal military installations will present serious risks to military readiness, operations and strategy, underscoring a ‘responsibility to prepare.’

The report includes new information regarding military installation vulnerabilities, including to the energy and transportation infrastructure that these installations depend on, showing significant and even potentially catastrophic risks to high-value military sites.

Commentary on report from members of the Military Expert Panel:

“Sea level rise is threatening our coastal installations and can jeopardize their ability to carry out their essential missions. To fulfill a responsibility to prepare, these installations and their neighboring civilian communities must be supported in their efforts to adapt their critical infrastructure over time to meet these growing challenges.” Brigadier General Gerald Galloway, USA (Ret), Member of the Military Expert Panel, the Center for Climate and Security

“This report update asks the questions: ‘How bad could it be, could we operate through that, and if not…then what?’ The answer is that climate change is already presenting significant risks to military infrastructure, will continue to do so throughout this century, and if we don’t make some changes, will make the military’s job much harder. The next questions to answer are: ‘How long will it take to prepare for these risks, and how much will that cost?’ It’s past time we answer these questions, and start making the necessary investments. From a military perspective, we have a responsibility to prepare for this threat, just as we do other threats to national security.” General Ronald Keys, USAF (Ret), Member of the Military Expert Panel, the Center for Climate and Security

“The Department of Defense intuitively understands it has a ‘responsibility to prepare’ for sea level rise, increased storm surges, wildfires and other climate change-related effects. Risks to military readiness, operations and strategy are concrete and already occurring. The military’s practical, clear-eyed and consistent approach to this challenge, across both Republican and Democratic Administrations, is a testament to its apolitical nature, and should pave the way for a continued bipartisan path forward on addressing the security risks of climate change.”Heather Messera, Military Expert Panel Chair, the Center for Climate and Security

“Basing, living and responding in zones impacted by sea level rise and more frequent and severe weather events requires increased strategic diligence across all the stakeholders that sustain the resilience or our armed forces and first responders. We have a responsibility to our armed forces, and the nation, to prepare for these risks.”Vice Admiral Robert Parker, USCG (Ret), Member of the Military Expert Panel, the Center for Climate and Security

“Planning military infrastructure without considering climate change, especially coastal infrastructure and sea-level rise, is akin to steaming a ship into port without considering the water depths on the chart. We’re smarter than that, and we must demonstrate it. Our military prides itself on information based decision-making at every level, from the tactical to the strategic, and the decisions involving climate change are no different. Just like we do with navigation charts, we must consistently demand and invest in better information to inform our decisions, but as indicated in this report, the information at hand is clear and compelling – we are not sailing blindly! With that information at hand, we have a clear responsibility to prepare for this risk.”Rear Admiral Jonathan White, USN (Ret), Member of the Military Expert Panel, the Center for Climate and Security 

  • Watch a video of the event here.
  • Read the full agenda for the event here.
  • Read the Center for Climate and Security’s Military Expert Panel Report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition, here.
  • Read the Center for Climate and Security’s South Carolina Fact Sheet from the above report here.

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The Center for Climate and Security (CCS) is a non-partisan security policy institute with a distinguished Advisory Board of military, national security and foreign policy experts.


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