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For First Time, the Pentagon IG Annual Report Identifies Climate Change as Top Challenge

By Dr. Marc Kodack

In another sign that the Department of Defense (DoD) is prioritizing climate security risks, the annual Inspector General (IG) summary of the Department’s top management challenges explicitly discusses climate change and extreme weather events. This is the first time the report has featured climate change, incorporating it along with global pandemics in a section on strengthening resiliency to non-traditional threats. 

The report explores a number of ways climate change and extreme weather challenge the DoD. It includes the following examples of the costly impact of extreme weather events on installations:  $3.6 billion in hurricane damages to Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune, North Carolina in 2018 and the 2019 flooding that caused $1 billion in damages to Offutt Air Force Base, Nebraska. The report also notes the risk of rising sea levels at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland; noting they are expected to rise an additional 3.6 feet by 2050 causing significant campus flooding. 

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EVENT: US Navy War College: The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate, January 8

Rough seas pound the hull of Military Sealift Command fast combat support ship USNS Arctic as she sails alongside Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Harry S. Truman, U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Joshua A. Moore

On January 8, the US Naval War College will host a public conference, The National Security Significance of a Changing Climate: Risk and Resilience in the 21st Century. Center for Climate and Security (CCS)CCS Advisory Board member, the Hon. Alice Hill, will serve as the keynote speaker, and panels feature many members of the CCS staff and community, including CCS Advisory Board Members the Hon. Sherri Goodman, Dr. Marcus King, and Rear Adm. Ann Phillips (Ret). Also on tap to speak are CCS Director John Conger and CCS Senior Research Fellow Josh Busby.
We’re delighted to see such an event on the War College’s agenda–In our Climate Security Plan for America, we recommend expanded training programs across the US government to ensure federal employees understand how to characterize and respond to climate security risks. This type of conference is an excellent step toward fulfilling that recommendation. For more information, check out this video about the conference and please click here to register for what is sure to be a fascinating discussion.

Biome Shifts Due to Climate Change Creates Increased Vulnerabilities for Military Installations

Tyndall Air Force Base Grounds Depicting Damage from Hurricane Michael, the Center for Climate and Security, April 30, 2019

By Dr. Marc Kodack

Supporting sustainable range management and training activities on military installations will be challenged by climate change, both in the near term and many years into the future. Odom and Ford (2020) modelled possible changes to biomes located on military lands from climate change to assess installation vulnerability to these shifts. Based on their modelling they found that the Northeast, the Great Lakes states, and western Great Plains will have the largest increases in temperature. These increased temperatures may adversely affect both forest and grasslands which are managed by installations to support training and natural resource management requirements, e.g., Clean Water Act; Endangered Species Act; Sikes Act. Adverse effects may include changed disturbance patterns–e.g., increased erosion in areas where heavy tactical vehicles are used in the winter when less snow occurs– as well as heat, and water stress to natural communities which, in turn, can disrupt scheduled training activities. The modelling results also forecast increased rainfall for the Northeast and Great Lakes. Disruptions to training may affect readiness of both personnel and equipment. These disruptions may then affect planned deployments.

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Modelling Climate Change Risks to a U.S. Air Force and Army Base

Sunlight peeks through the ceiling of Hanger 5 at Tyndall Air Force Base, damaged by Hurricane Michael [Times photo by Tailyr Irvine]

By Dr. Marc Kodack

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 ArmyNavy) 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.

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