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3 Pentagon Strategy Documents in 3 Months Highlight Climate Change Risks


Senior-ranking military members discuss current humanitarian assistance operations at a senior leaders seminar at Sattahip Naval Base in Chonburi Province, Thailand Feb. 14, 2017.

From April to June of this year, the U.S. military has issued not one, but three strategy documents that highlight climate change risks to the U.S. military mission. These include:

June 6: Department of Defense Arctic Strategy, U.S. Department of Defense

June 1: The Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report: Preparedness, Partnerships and Promoting a Networked Region, U.S. Department of Defense

April 22: United States Coast Guard: Arctic Strategic Outlook, Commandant of the United States Coast Guard

These documents together paint a very holistic picture of the Department of Defense’s strategic approach to the Arctic and the Indo-Pacific – two regions that are becoming increasingly more critical due to rapid climatic, demographic, political and economic changes. All of them acknowledge and address the role climate change plays in these critical geostrategic environments, demonstrating again that the defense, and intelligence, communities do not let politics affect their analysis. Below are excerpts from each strategy that directly relate to climate change and security.

Department of Defense Arctic Strategy (full document)

pp 3-4: Changing Physical Environment: The Arctic’s physical environment continues to change, including through diminished sea ice coverage, declining snow cover, and melting ice sheets. Temperatures across the Arctic region are increasing more than twice as fast as global average temperatures, accompanied by thawing permafrost and loss of sea ice and glacier mass. Diminishing Arctic sea ice is opening new shipping lanes and increasing access to natural resources during the summer months. If the warming trends continue at the current rate, Arcticwide sea ice loss may result in nearly ice-free late summers by the 2040s. Thawing permafrost, compounded by storm surge and coastal erosion, adversely affects infrastructure, including DoD installations, and complicates the development of new and resilient DoD infrastructure. The physical effects of the changing Arctic frontier are also causing some local communities to adapt by relocating. Even so, the Arctic continues to be characterized by harsh conditions, including
extremes of cold and darkness, which impose specific requirements for operating and sustaining Joint Force capabilities in the region.

pg. 17: The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Engineering (USACE) Research and Development Center, Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory (ERDC-CRREL) works to enhance Arctic domain awareness by examining the effects of a changing climate; and by monitoring Arctic effects on the operational environment, including sensor performance and signal propagation. The USACE ERDC-CRREL addresses effects on infrastructure and operations resulting from exposure to extreme environmental and dynamic climactic conditions. USACE ERDC-CRREL is pursuing technology to detect permafrost conditions, providing facilities to simulate Arctic conditions, as well as systems and materials evaluation and development.

The Department of Defense Indo-Pacific Strategy Report (full report)

pg 13: A region already prone to earthquakes and volcanoes as part of the Pacific Ring of Fire, the Indo-Pacific region suffers regularly from natural disasters including monsoons, hurricanes, and floods to earthquakes and volcanic activity, as well as the negative consequences of climate change.

pg 41: …we believe strongly in respect for a safe, secure, and prosperous, free and open Indo-Pacific that must preserve small states’ sovereignty. Third, we aim to focus on building capacity and resilience to address maritime security; Illegal, Unreported, and Unregulated fishing; drug trafficking; and resilience to address climate change and disaster response, as signified by the 2018 Boe Declaration.

United States Coast Guard: Arctic Strategic Outlook (full report)

pg. 38: Arctic communities face increasingly frequent and severe incidents due to changing climate and growing human activity. Increased commercial activity also raises the risk of pollution incidents occurring in remote and environmentally-sensitive locations. This risk is compounded by the logistical and technical difficulties of operating in the Arctic, which challenges the ability of the commercial marine industry to meet the oil spill response planning requirements. As the Nation’s maritime first responder, the Coast Guard will lead and participate in national-level planning and exercises that include federal, state, tribal, local, international, and non-governmental partners to test preparedness and adaptability. The Coast Guard also works with industry to address oil spill response shortfalls and evaluate alternatives to the National Planning Criteria.



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