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By 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…)
The Ripon Society, a public policy organization that takes its name from the birthplace of the Republican Party (Ripon, Wisconsin) and considers Theodore Roosevelt its intellectual guide, recently published a multi-author volume America’s Energy Renaissance as the July issue of its The Ripon Forum magazine.
For the issue, Director of the Center for Climate and Security, John Conger, former Assistant Secretary of Defense for Energy, Installations and Environment, wrote a piece simply and pragmatically titled “Why the Pentagon Cares About Climate Change.” Within the article, Mr. Conger highlights the simple, pragmatic, mission-focused reasons why the Department of Defense takes this threat seriously. From the piece:
Secretary James Mattis – and at least fifteen other senior defense officials during the current Administration – have taken an approach that is pragmatic and mission-focused. From day one – in response to questions during his confirmation process – Secretary Mattis said: “[T]he effects of a changing climate — such as increased maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification, among others — impact our security situation. I will ensure that the department continues to be prepared to conduct operations today and in the future, and that we are prepared to address the effects of a changing climate on our threat assessments, resources, and readiness.” His words are hardly inflammatory, and yet they convey an unequivocal recognition of climate change and a determination to overcome its effects.
Read the full article here.
Notably though unsurprisingly, due to consistent expressions of concern about climate change from senior defense leaders over the past year, the Department of Defense (DoD) on Sunday reaffirmed its stance on the growing national security risks associated with a changing climate. In a statement to the Washington Times, DoD spokesperson Heather Babb noted:
The effects of a changing climate continue to be a national security issue with potential impacts to missions, operational plans and installations…DOD has not changed its approach on ensuring installations and infrastructure are resilient to a wide range of challenges, including climate and other environmental considerations.
The article also quotes the Center for Climate and Security’s Director, John Conger, who commented on the practical, mission-based rationale for the military’s concern:
There are mission reasons to do these kinds of things. … If sea level rise is going to impact infrastructure, if a runway gets flooded, that’s a mission impact and that’s the kind of thing you’ve got to pay attention to.
It’s not like they’re doing some altruistic thing…They’re not trying to be good about climate change. They just recognize the reality that’s in front of you.
Read the full article here.
On Friday, the U.S. Department of Defense’s Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics released a comprehensive new survey of climate change-related risks to military infrastructure worldwide. The study, prosaically titled “Climate-Related Risk to DoD Infrastructure Initial Vulnerability Assessment Survey (SLVAS) Report,” is a response to a Congressional request from 2016,* based on the DoD’s 2015 commitment to conducting a:
…global screening level assessment to determine installation vulnerabilities to climate-related security risks with the goal of identifying serious vulnerabilities and developing necessary adaptation strategies.
Today, ProPublica’s Andrew Revkin published a story on written testimony from Secretary of Defense James Mattis to the Senate Armed Services Committee (responses to the so-called Questions for the Record, or QFRs) wherein he strongly reaffirms the Pentagon’s practical stance on climate change: it’s a security risk that must be dealt with today – not at some distant point in the future. This builds on Department of Defense (DoD) assessments going all the way back to 1990, and makes clear that for the U.S. military, the matter is neither partisan nor ideological, but rather, a significant threat in the geostrategic landscape that the DoD has a responsibility to address. (more…)
New Report from the Pentagon – Geographic Combatant Commands Already Addressing Climate Change Threat
Washington, D.C. — The Center for Climate and Security (CCS), a policy institute with an Advisory Board of senior retired military officers and national security experts, supports the U.S. Department of Defense’s recently-released report to Congress “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate.”
Significantly, the report highlights what the U.S. Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) are already doing to address the climate threat. (more…)