Yesterday, U.S. Secretary of Defense James Mattis announced that he would be stepping down from his position at the end of February 2019. Given his leadership on climate change within the Department of Defense, and his commitment to anticipating, analyzing and addressing the myriad threats the United States faces in this complex age, the Center for Climate and Security, an institute of the Council on Strategic Risks, is issuing the following statement:
Secretary Mattis has been an excellent Secretary of Defense during a tumultuous time. That excellence has included acknowledging and taking actions to address the very real risks climate change poses to the security of the United States, including to its armed forces, its allies and its interests abroad. His successor will need to also acknowledge and act on these risks, and address how they interact with other threats to the United States, as part of the complex job of keeping the nation, including our men and women in uniform, safe. However, despite his departure in February, Secretary Mattis’ example lives on within the Department of Defense, where a broad range of leaders at all levels of the military and across the service branches continue to deal with the very real consequences of climate change to their missions. That includes billions of dollars of damage to military infrastructure and assets from just the most recent climate events.
This is a reality that the U.S. military has taken seriously for many decades, across Republican and Democratic administrations, and that will undoubtedly continue. Secretary Mattis’ successor will therefore enter a building that is clear-eyed about the threat of climate change, and it will be critically important for that person to help lead the effort in dealing with it.