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U.S. Secretary of Defense and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs: Climate Change Impacts National Security

Esper and Milley_2020_2

Dr. Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense, and GEN Mark Milley, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, address climate change threats to the military before the House Armed Services Committee – February 26, 2020

By Dr. Marc Kodack

On February 26, 2020, the House Armed Services Committee held a hearing on “The Fiscal Year 2021 National Defense Authorization Budget Request from the Department of Defense.” Witnesses providing written statements and answering questions included Dr. Mark Esper, U.S. Secretary of Defense and GEN Mark Milley, Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff. Both Secretary Esper and General Milley identified climate change as a phenomenon that has impacts on the military and national security, and that investments need to be made now in order to address future risks. Below is a verbatim transcript of the exchanges between Members of Congress and the two witnesses on climate change and climate-related topics.

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Highway Bridge Deterioration from Climate Change Will Affect U.S. Military Mobility and Deployments

Bridge #3 with Deteriorated Deck _WI

By Marc Kodack

The overall state of infrastructure in the U.S. is very poor. Whether it’s energy, transit, drinking water, or inland waterways, these and other types of infrastructure are all aging and deteriorating at different rates. Climate change exacerbates the condition of many of these types of infrastructure. For the Department of Defense (DoD), infrastructure, such as bridges, roads, rail, ports, and aviation structures, is important to move personnel and equipment in response to disasters within the U.S. or for deploying overseas for humanitarian and/or combat operations. The declining state of bridges across the U.S. may impede the DoD’s ability to meet the timely execution of its assigned mission. Bridges will experience climate change effects, including those from rising temperatures that can lower physical performance leading to degradation in their life span. (more…)

Climate Change, Wildfires, the Military and Artificial Intelligence

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Kincade Fire, seen by NOAA’s GOES West on Oct. 24, 2019, covering 10,000 acres

By Marc Kodack

In the western United States, climate change is increasing the risk of wildfires, such as the ongoing Kincade Fire that is devastating northern California. This is in part because increased temperatures driven by greenhouse gas emissions are drying out available fuels for fires. As we’re seeing today, when ignition occurs under these conditions, fires can become extraordinarily challenging for local communities and first responders to manage. (more…)

The New U.S. Department of Defense Leadership Team on Climate Security

Secretary Esper and General Milley

Secretary Mark Esper and General Mark A. Milley, USA

By John Conger

As the confirmation processes continue for both Mark Esper to become Secretary of Defense and General Mark A. Milley to become Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, it is worth exploring what these officials have said and done about climate security in general, or particular aspects of it, while they’ve been in their current positions running the Army – including most recently during the confirmation process.

First, as Secretary of the Army, Dr. Esper submitted to Congress a top ten list of his most climate-vulnerable bases, focusing mostly on drought and desertification, and committed to “work closely with other leaders throughout the Department of Defense and with Congress to identify corrective actions and implement steps to enhance our readiness and capability in the face of climate related threats.” (more…)