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U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command Warns of Climate Change Impact on Operations

TRADOC pamplet cover_2019

By Marc Kodack

The U.S. Army Training and Doctrine Command (TRADOC) has published a new pamphlet, titled “The Operational Environment and the Changing Character of Warfare,” which warns of significant climate change-driven changes to the U.S. military’s operational environment. The pamphlet adds to growing Army concerns about climate change, which we recently saw in very stark words from an Army War College report which stated that “the Department of Defense is precariously underprepared for the national security implications of climate change-induced global security challenges.”

Nature of the document

The TRADOC pamphlet examines what the future of warfare is anticipated to be through 2050. Over these next 30 years, two critical drivers will affect the operational environment (OE)—“one dealing with rapid societal change spurred by breakneck advances in science and technology and the other with the art of warfare under these conditions…These drivers work along a continuum beginning in the present in a nascent form, and rapidly gaining momentum through a culmination point around 2050.”

Throughout these next 30 years, the pamphlet argues, instability will be commonly driven by multiple variables, including nationalism, changing demographics, resource competition—particularly over water, and rapid technological change.

Nature of climate change concern

The pamphlet then goes on to note the significant effects of climate change on the future operational environment. It states:

“New territorial conflicts will arise in places like the South China Sea, compelling us to seek new partnerships and alliances, while climate change and geopolitical competition will open up whole new theaters of operation, such as in the Arctic.”

According to the report, U.S. adversaries will seek advantages over the Army across all domains—land, sea, air, space, and cyber—either directly or through proxies. Two periods of future warfare are described, including the “Era of Accelerated Human Progress,” which ranges form the present-2035, followed by the “Era of Contested Equality,” which ranges from 2035-2050.

Within the projected Era of Accelerated Human Progress (present-2035), adversaries will extend existing technologies, doctrine, and strategic concepts, across all domains, to challenge the U.S. Hybrid capabilities, such as the use of unconventional and traditional military forces, sometimes at a level below warfare to mitigate U.S. advantages in joint-force maneuver and precision. By the time of the Era of Contested Equality, 2035-2050, changes in warfare will be revolutionary, allowing an adversary to adopt tools, technologies, and methods against the U.S. and its global national security interests. Climate change, the pamphlet highlights, is likely to become a direct security threat. From the report:

“Risks to U.S. security include extreme weather impacting installations, increased scarcity and food insecurity, climate migration increasing the number of refugees and internally displaced peoples, and the Arctic as a new sphere of competition.”

Click here to read the full pamphlet.


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