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Despite Politics, the Pentagon Launches New Effort on Climate and Environmental Security

By John Conger

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been addressing climate change issues and examining how they impact national security for a long time – across multiple Administrations, both Democrat and Republican.  In recent years, the DoD has done so despite political pressures to the contrary, though prioritization of the issue declined significantly after the departure of Secretary of Defense James Mattis. However, recent articles (here and here) highlight a new effort within the Pentagon called Recourse Competition, Environmental Security, and Stability (RECESS), led by the Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense (Stability and Humanitarian Affairs), that seeks to create a coherent internal network within the Pentagon to address climate and environmental security threats.  According to recent news, the effort is intended to “corral the Pentagon’s top experts on climate and the environment to better prepare U.S. forces for future threats and conflicts” and has “already collected more than 60 people from across the military, including the intelligence community and combatant commands.” This initiative is new and exciting for a few reasons.

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New Book: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change

Recovery Efforts Continue In Hurricane-Ravaged Florida Panhandle

Debris litters Tyndall Air Force Base following Hurricane Michael on October 17, 2018 in Panama City, Florida. Many U.S. military bases are in locations vulnerable to storm damage and sea-level rise.

Tomorrow, November 12, Professor Michael T. Klare’s book “All Hell Breaking Loose: The Pentagon’s Perspective on Climate Change” will be published. In advance of that publication, Professor Klare was interviewed by Rolling Stone to discuss it. Here are a couple excerpts:

The idea of ‘All Hell Breaking Loose,’ in the title of your book, what does that mean for the military?

They see their job as defending this country from foreign threats and that is what they are trained to do. ‘All Hell Breaking Loose’ is a condition they fear in which they will be unable to conduct that mission, to do their job, because they will be so caught up in protecting this country against climate change threats or addressing its impacts on other countries around the world that are collapsing because of the effects.

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FAQ: The Pentagon Leads on Recognizing Climate Change Risks: But What About its Emissions?

The_PentagonBy John Conger and Marc Kodack

The U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) has been widely recognized for its consistent recognition of the threat of climate change, as well as its continued efforts to maintain climate resilience efforts even as much of the rest of the Administration reflects a more climate skeptic position.  At the same time, some have pointed out that DoD is a major source of the emissions that drive the very change they’re concerned about.  So what’s the deal? Let’s dive into it a bit. (more…)

Finding Climate Change Between the Lines in the National Defense Strategy

ASP-National-Defense-Strategy-Report_Summary_PageBy John Conger

Earlier this year, concerns were raised by both Republicans and Democrats in Congress about the new National Security Strategy and the National Defense Strategy omitting references to climate change or its possible impact on our security situation.

Recent work by the American Security Project (ASP) shows that even though the National Defense Strategy does not call out climate change specifically, it is most certainly in there implicitly.  ASP decided to look for climate change between the lines and concluded:

The 2018 NDS outlines how the operating environment is changing, highlighting “challenges to free and open international order and the re-emergence of long-term strategic competition between nations.”

Within this framework, we find that climate change will impact the national security of our nation in three main ways. First, climate change will undermine the existing international order. Second, at the same time, weak states will be more vulnerable to great power influence. And third, threats to the homeland will become closer to home and less concrete, allowing them to permeate our borders. As noted in the NDS, “the homeland is no longer a sanctuary.” (more…)

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