Sunday, February 15, 2015

The Pentagon & Climate Change:  How Deniers Put National Security at Risk

As sea levels rise, floods have become more common on the Norfolk base, the headquarters of the U.S. Navy's Atlantic fleet. (Credit: Photographer's Mate 1st Class Michael Pendergrass/U.S. Navy) Click to Enlarge.
The scale of military assets that are at risk due to our rapidly changing climate is mind-boggling.  The Pentagon manages more than 555,000 facilities and 28 million acres of land — virtually all of which will be impacted by climate change in some way.
The Pentagon is examining its 704 coastal installations and sites in a big study to try to figure out which bases are most at risk.  Eventually some tough decisions will have to be made about which ones to close, relocate or protect.  Even speculating about the number of possible closures is too hot a topic for anyone in the Pentagon to touch right now.  But the process can't be put off much longer.  The next meeting of the Base Realignment and Closure Commission could occur as soon as 2017.  "In BRAC, all of the decisions are based on the military value," says John Conger, the deputy undersecretary of defense, who is responsible for BRAC.  "Will climate change affect the military value of the installation?  Well, sure it will.  The question is, does it dominate the equation?  And I don't think it does — yet." 
Adm. Samuel Locklear III, who is in charge of all U.S. armed forces in the Pacific, is one of the most respected men in the U.S. military — and the one with the toughest job, with both China and North Korea to watch over.  "The political and social upheaval we're likely to see from our rapidly warming planet," Locklear told The Boston Globe in 2013, "is probably the most likely thing that . . . will cripple the security environment, probably more likely than the other scenarios we all often talk about.''
What Locklear correctly foresees is that a world of climate-driven chaos is already upon us, and it's only going to get worse.  And we need to start talking about it now, because not only will the threats multiply, so will the questions we have to address.  It's one thing to plan for the invasion of Normandy Beach or the siege of Fallujah — it's quite another to plan for being the rescue squad for the entire planet.  We have already spent more than $1 trillion in Iraq and Afghanistan, with no measurable success.  How much more can we afford to do?  "I think we have to make some strategic choices," says Adm. Gary Roughead, who was U.S. chief of naval operations from 2007 to 2011.  "Which parts of the world do we care about most?  What are the strategic flashpoints?  Do we want to be able to operate in the Arctic or not?  What kind of world are we preparing for?"  Some intelligence analysts argue that U.S. military superiority will be the least significant asset in the future because no one will attack us with massive conventional force.  Instead, we will be pulled deeper and deeper into smaller conflicts driven by terrorism, failed states and natural disasters.  "When oceans rise, instability follows," says Secretary of the Navy Ray Mabus.

Read more at The Pentagon & Climate Change:  How Deniers Put National Security at Risk

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