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States of Emergency: Climate Change Risks to U.S. Military Installations in 2021
By John Conger and Erin Sikorsky
On January 5, the Washington Post published an analysis of climate change-related emergencies in 2021 and concluded that more than 40 percent of Americans live in counties that were covered by federal disaster declarations in the past year. The devastating effects of the severe storms, hurricanes, floods, wildfires, and droughts identified in the analysis pose a range of security risks to the US homeland, including direct loss of life (more than 650 people died from these disasters according to the Post), economic harm (NOAA estimates 20 separate “billion dollar” disasters in the US in 2021), and critical infrastructure damage. These climate-driven shocks also undermine long-term US resilience and compound other risks such as the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic.
An additional security risk is one we at the Center for Climate and Security (CCS) have spent a lot of time talking about over the years: the implications of climate change and extreme weather on military installations. In recent years, hurricanes have done billions of dollars of damage to Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida and Camp Lejeune in North Carolina; while the 2019 Missouri River flood inundated Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, home to US STRATCOM. Meanwhile, wildfires have repeatedly driven the evacuation of bases in California including portions of Camp Pendleton and Beale Air Force Base in 2021.(more…)
Modelling Climate Change Risks to a U.S. Air Force and Army Base
As U.S. military installation planners incorporate climate change into their work, such as the development of installation master plans, they often draw on existing military sources of data and handbooks (see Army; Navy) to prepare those plans. Planners may also incorporate findings from academic studies that are relevant, particularly if they include individual installations in the research. As an example, Tadić and Biraud (2020) from Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory modeled what precipitation and maximum daily temperature would be for three, 30-year windows (2015-2035; 2035-2065; and 2085-2100) under two different emission scenarios for Travis Air Force Base, California, and Fort Bragg, North Carolina. Temperatures are forecast to rise across the three time periods in both emission scenarios for Travis from 1.1-to-2.70C (2-to-4.90F). Similarly, Fort Bragg temperatures are forecast to increase 0.9-to-2.20C (0.6-to-40F). Precipitation changes are weak for both scenarios across all time periods for both installations.(more…)
The Air Force’s Most Vulnerable Bases
By John Conger
In 2017, the U.S. Congress directed the Department of Defense (DoD) to develop a list of the installations in each military service that were most vulnerable to climate change. They gave DoD a year to do this work, as it wasn’t simple. The DoD would need to look across its enterprise, and determine how it would measure vulnerability and assess which risks were specifically from climate change. At the Center for Climate and Security, we published a briefer on the factors they might consider.
In early 2019, the DoD report was submitted to Congress, but it omitted the requested prioritization and had other puzzling gaps as well. It omitted the Marine Corps. It left out all non-US bases. It didn’t respond to Congressional questions about mitigation and cost. Instead, it included a list of 79 bases that the Department determined were its most critical, and then did a rudimentary assessment of the threat from climate change without prioritization. Congress directed them to go back and redo the work. (more…)