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Release: North Carolina Leaders, Military and Security Experts Discuss Climate Threats in Wake of Hurricane Florence

North Carolina Fact Sheet CoverEvent: “Sea Level Rise & Security in the Southeast: Implications for the Military and Civilian Communities”
Date and time: September 24, 2018, from 2:00pm-4:45pm (Livestream available here during opening remarks, and then again after the film screening, at approximately 3:00pm)
Location:  The James B. Hunt Jr Library, NC State University Centennial Campus, Raleigh, NC
Hosts: The Center for Climate and Security in partnership with The North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, North Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albemarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership
Agenda and speakers: here
North Carolina fact sheet: here

Raleigh, NC – As the citizens of North Carolina come to terms with the aftermath of Hurricane Florence and the devastating impacts of storm-related flooding, The Center for Climate and Security, in partnership with the North Carolina Department of Environmental QualityNorth Carolina Sea Grant, and the Albermarle-Pamlico National Estuary Partnership have come together to discuss how the effects of sea level rise, storm surge, and extreme weather events can combine to greatly effect the state’s coastal communities, the military operations carried out at installations located in the eastern part of the state, and how planning for resilience can be integrated into the long-term outlook and policy for the region.

This events stems from research that The Center for Climate and Security Military Expert Panel produced to update the Center’s report: Sea Level Rise and the U.S. Military’s Mission, 2nd Edition, The report highlights risks to North Carolina’s key coastal military sites, including to training locations, ranges, port facilities, and the civilian transportation infrastructure that these installations depend on (see here for a North Carolina fact sheet detailing the impact of sea level rise and other climate effects). The need to understand the reality of these concrete effects and plan for both military and community resilience in the future, has brought together a diverse group of state officials, military leaders, coastal policy experts, scientists, and municipal planners, to urgently discuss risks and solutions in North Carolina’s capital city.

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

“We are seeing the effects of a changing climate more and more often in our daily weather – in the Carolinas, in the United States, and around the world. These changes, which will continue for many decades to come, profoundly impact both the missions the Defense Department will be called on to perform as well as the military’s critical training and basing infrastructure. Planning and adaptation now will minimize the cost, crises, and possibly mission failures of tomorrow.” – Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (ret.), The Center for Climate and Security, Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, former Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy

“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 state or region, and it has no time to waste.”  – Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, US Navy (ret), The Center for Climate and Security, Former Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group TWO and Director of Surface Warfare

“In the wake of Hurricane Florence, climate’s impacts on military installations and military readiness in North Carolina should be clear, but so should their resilience.  With this disaster fresh in our minds, we need to be thinking about how to prepare for the next one.  Now is the time to build on both the resilience of our military installations and the resilience of the civilian infrastructure upon which they depend.”– John Conger, Director of the Center for Climate and Security, and former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment

The Event will begin with a welcome from Secretary Michael Regan, Secretary of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality, remarks from Colonel John Nicholson, USMC (ret.) who is currently serving as Deputy Chief of the North Carolina Department of Environmental Quality and a screening of the film Tidewater, introduced by Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, USN (ret.) (Advisory Board Member of The Center for Climate and Security, Former Commander of Expeditionary Strike Group TWO and Director of Surface Warfare), who features in the film as both a resident of the Hampton Roads area of Virginia, and who after a career as a Surface Warfare Officer, lead the Chief of Naval Operation’s Climate Change Task Force.

After the film, a panel of experts, including Rear Admiral David W. Titley (Advisory Board Member of the Center for Climate and Security, Director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State University, former Oceanographer and Navigator of the Navy); Dr. Susan Cohen, Coordinator of the Department of the Navy’s Defense Coastal Estuarine Research Program; Dr. Reide Corbett, Dean, Integrated Coastal Programs, Director, Coastal Studies Institute, Professor, Department of Coastal Studies, East Carolina University; Dr. Gavin Smith, Director of the Department of Homeland Security’s Coastal Resilience Center of Excellence and Research Professor in the Department of City and Regional Planning at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill; and Holly White, AICP, CFM, Principal Planner, Town of Nags Head, and regional leader on engaging the public in planning for resilience.

The first segment of the discussion will focus on both the big picture risks that the military faces from sea level rise across the coastal Southeast, and the concrete flooding effects that areas from the Tidewater Region of Virginia to the Lowcountry of South Carolina, already experience on a regular basis. Military experts will also discuss the broader vulnerabilities of the U.S. military and surrounding communities to inundation, heat, and extreme weather in the future, and the responsibility that federal, state, and local governments have to prepare for these risks.  The second half of the discussion will focus on sea level rise trends in North Carolina, and the complex riverine flooding that the state experiences during and after storms such as Florence.  Policy makers and resilience experts will present ideas on how elected officials, scientists, and citizens can collaborate to find creative resilience solutions for the military and broader coastal communities – both through built and social infrastructure. The conversation will be led and moderated by Deputy Chief John Nicholson, whose own career as a military officer and now a state official bridges these worlds.

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

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 the 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 livestream of the event here.
  • Read the full agenda for the event here.
  • Read the Center forClimate 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 North Carolina Fact Sheet from the above report here.

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