By John Conger
Extreme weather is an important face of climate change that is showing itself more and more frequently. Warming leads to storms with increased energy and increased precipitation, and that can lead to a lot of damage. That’s already the case. For the future, we can foresee that weather patterns will continue to change rapidly, storms will become more devastating, and that we should expect (and plan for) the unexpected.
This understanding and preparation is essential for the critical infrastructure of the United States, and the people who man and depend on that infrastructure. The last year has been particularly devastating to both civilian and military infrastructure, and there’s no way around that fact.
The Department of Defense (DoD), for example, is facing more than $8 billion in recovery costs to address extreme weather damage at Tyndall Air Force Base, Offutt Air Force Base, and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, installations that are very important for U.S. military capabilities and livelihoods.
Based on observations from a visit I made to Tyndall Air Force Base on April 30, the base is still feeling the significantly damaging effects seven months after Hurricane Michael. Trees remain stripped bare or snapped in half, roofs are covered with tarps, and many buildings are simply not habitable. Its F-22 mission has not returned. At the same time, most of the missions have returned to the base, some in temporary locations; modular buildings have been installed, providing housing for many; and hundreds of millions of dollars have been spent to bring it back up to operation.
This is one face of the climate resilience requirement in today’s military. It is the impact that extreme weather can have. Reportedly, it is also where the Air Force wants to build its Base of the Future, but looking at the base today, that’s a long way off.
Tyndall Air Force Base is also out of money, desperate for the infusion of cash that is pending in the stalled emergency appropriations bill pending in Congress. No new projects, including storm repair projects, can be started at the base until the emergency appropriations bill is passed.
That’s a big problem, as Tyndall Air Force Base’s ability to weather the next storm is seriously degraded as it works to recover from the last one. And its only 30 days until hurricane season.