By John Conger
During a hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee on February 12, Admiral Philip Davidson, Commander of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM), affirmed the threat climate change poses to his Area of Responsibility, becoming the 21st senior military official to raise concerns about climate risks during the current Administration (see here for a list from November, and here for statements from Admiral Moran and General Neller in December).
During questioning, Admiral Davidson confirmed that he agreed with the intelligence community’s assessment of the climate change threat, as articulated in the 2019 Worldwide Threat Assessment published by the Director for National Intelligence (NOTE: climate change has been identified as a security threat in each of the last ten such assessments).
In follow-on questioning regarding the impacts of climate change on operational readiness, Admiral Davidson noted that the immediate manifestation of climate change was the number of ecological disaster events, and the humanitarian assistance and disaster response mission that U.S. forces are called upon to fulfill.
See the full exchange transcribed below (beginning at 1:23:04 in the Senate video):
Senator Warren: The unclassified Worldwide Threat Assessment by the Director for National Intelligence said, and I’m going to quote here: “Global environmental and ecological degradation, as well as climate change, are likely to fuel competition for resources, economic distress, and social discontent through 2019 and beyond.” That assessment also said: “Damage to communication, energy, and transportation infrastructure could affect low-lying military bases, inflict economic costs, and cause human displacement and loss of life.” Admiral Davidson do you agree with the intelligence community’s assessment of the climate change threat?
Admiral Davidson: Yes, ma’am.
Senator Warren: So how does climate change impact operations in your area of responsibility and what are you doing to prepare for climate change?
Admiral Davidson: Well, the immediate manifestation, ma’am, is the number of ecological disaster events that are happening. I’ve just wrapped up after some four months… excuse me… three and a half months of assistance in Tinian and Saipan. A contribution of Title X forces in significant numbers, to help clear debris, to help fix roofs, to help restore the infrastructure there writ large. I’ve also been called to respond and assist in Indonesia in the wake of the earthquake and the tsunami that happened there last year – a little separate from climate change, but our assistance in terms of humanitarian assistance and disaster relief, our ability to command and control, to marshal troops, to deliver logistics is important training for the region. It’s something that they all need. And one of the things that my headquarters does is we run a center for excellence in disaster management. That training is available not just to the Title X folks but also our interagency here in the United States, and we export those courses as well to countries throughout the Indopacific and really globally to help assist them in these matters.
Senator Warren: So, thank you. Adapting to climate change impacts our military readiness, and I’m glad that our military commanders take the threat of climate change seriously. I think we, your civilian leaders owe it to you to enact policies here in Congress that recognize that climate change is happening and that we need to do more to stop it.