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

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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…)

Pentagon Environmental Research Program Webinar on Climate Change Adaptation

The_PentagonThe U.S. Department of Defense’s Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP) and Environmental Security Technology Certification Program (ESTCP) host an excellent webinar series to “promote the transfer of innovative, cost-effective and sustainable solutions developed through projects funded in five program areas.” One of those areas involves presenting solutions to the security implications of climate change. The webinar scheduled for June 20 at 12pm ET is titled “Developing Adaptation Strategies to Address Climate Change and Uncertainty,” and promises to be an interesting discussion with Dr. Yonas Demissie of Washington State University and Dr. Mark Wigmosta of the Pacific Northwest National Laboratory. Click here for more information, and to register.

Briefer: The Pentagon’s Forthcoming Climate Report – What to Expect and How Congress Should Use It

CSAG Briefer_2018_11_6In February 2018, the Climate and Security Advisory Group (CSAG) issued a report titled “A Responsibility to Prepare – Strengthening National and Homeland Security in the Face of a Changing Climate” which included a series of recommendations for the U.S. government.  Among its recommendations, the CSAG supported Congressional direction in the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act to assess vulnerabilities to military installations and combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change.  In that assessment, Congress directs the Department of Defense (DoD) to identify the ten installations per military service that are most vulnerable to climate change. That report is due on December 12, 2018.

Today, a little less than a month before that deadline, the CSAG is publishing a briefer offering context, advice and recommendations to Congress and the DoD regarding this report, and next steps on assessing and preparing for climate change risks to the nation’s military. Click here for the full report.

Three Takeaways from Hurricane Michael’s Impact on Tyndall Air Force Base

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An F-22 Raptor from Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., commences take off (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Sergio A. Gamboa)

By John Conger, Director, The Center for Climate and Security

As the Florida communities devastated by Hurricane Michael begin their long recovery, much attention has been focused on Tyndall Air Force Base and the incredible amount of damage the base took from the storm.

First and foremost, it’s important to highlight the wise decision to evacuate the base as the storm approached.  No lives were lost on Tyndall and many of its F-22 aircraft were relocated elsewhere – out of harms way.  Missions have been moved and critical functions have continued to operate.  A decision to ride out the storm could have gone much, much worse.

Second, while the damage assessment is still ongoing, it is very clear that the bill will be quite high – not only to the infrastructure of the base, but also to the very expensive F-22 aircraft that remained at the installation.  Official numbers have not been released, but it is clear that many F-22s remained at the base because they were in various states of maintenance and unable to fly.  Fortunately, initial indications from the Air Force are that damage to the aircraft is less than it could have been.  (more…)