Pentagon: Climate Change Disrupting Military. It Will Get Worse

By defenseone.com via Principia Scientific International

Even as wildfires drain National Guard resources, the Pentagon is racing to develop computer models that can better guide decisions about sustainability efforts.

The Pentagon is in the midst of a massive, multi-year effort to better adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse emissions. But the changing climate is already imposing costs on the military and even challenging how well it can prepare to fight other nation states.

“In terms of current operations, we have National Guardsmen, we have active-duty soldiers, we have active-duty airmen right now participating in firefighting support efforts. So these are…folks who are not doing a primary job. So right now we are experiencing climate change and effects. Right now, we know that these are going to only increase over time,” Richard Kidd, the deputy assistant defense secretary for environment and energy resilience, said in an interview.

That’s just one of the most obvious examples of climate impact on the military. Humanitarian assistance and support for civil authority are also Defense Department missions, as outlined in the National Defense Strategy, and climate change is growing those missions’ size and scope, Kidd said.

“We have already seen anecdotal evidence for increased demand for domestic support. If you track the number of days the National Guard was needed to provide support for civil authorities, last year was the highest year on record,” he said.

Part of that was the response to massive protests across the country. But this year, with far fewer protests, “We are on track to exceed that amount. This is National Guardsmen called up to fight forest fires,” he said. “Likewise, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers response for hurricanes and droughts in support of the national response through FEMA,” will also increase, he said.

Supporting firefighters and other people dealing with natural disasters is satisfying work for a lot of troops, Kidd said. But, he added, “There’s an opportunity cost: if equipment and personnel are being used for that, they aren’t doing other things. They aren’t doing the sort of warfighter training that they need to do.”

Eventually, dealing with the effects of climate change will become a key area of military involvement, he said. “We absolutely predict that that demand set will only increase, and yes, we can do that.”

More and more security experts agree.

In June, the International Military Council on Climate and Security released its second report on the impacts of climate change on issues such as governance and civil unrest across the globe. They surveyed experts from a variety of institutions—including the Planetary Security Initiative at the Netherlands Institute of International Relations, the Hague Centre for Strategic Studies, and the French Institute for International and Strategic Affairs—asking them how they expect various risk areas like biodiversity, water availability, and instability within nations to evolve over the next decade. The experts held a dim view.

“Respondents expect a majority of risks will pose high to catastrophic levels of risk to security. Ten and 20 years from now, respondents expect very high levels of risk along nearly every type of climate security phenomena,” the report said.

The experts concluded that the global governance system isn’t prepared for many of the risks. So, in part because of that lack of preparedness, more and more of the international response to climate-change-related issues will fall to men and women in uniform.

“Militaries will be increasingly overstretched as climate change intensifies. As the pace and intensity of extreme weather events increases, countries are increasing their reliance on military forces as first responders,” they wrote. “While direct climate change effects regularly threaten military infrastructure and threaten to reduce readiness, the most pressing security threats will come from climate change-induced disruptions to social systems.”

In 2019, the Pentagon launched a broad review of the effects of climate change on the military. This review put no price tag on current or future costs—in part because they depend on just how much the Defense Department can reduce its own emissions.

“In terms of greenhouse gas emissions, if we were a country, we would be the 55th largest emitter of greenhouse gases by country status,” Kidd said.

“The department absolutely recognizes we have to be part of the solution.”

Reducing emissions at the department’s hundreds of installations, which produce about one-third of its greenhouse gases, may seem to be the easy part, since buildings and infrastructure are simpler to model and modify. But that’s also the problem: Mistakes are literally cemented. Simple wrong choices can cost millions and the “wrongness” of any choice usually becomes clear only over time.

“Six inches or a foot of a seawall equates to millions of dollars in construction costs,” said Chris Massey, a U.S. Army Corps of Engineers mathematician.

But it’s hard to predict just how much seas will rise and storms will intensify over the next decades.

Full article ..

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