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Department Of Defense Plans For Adaptation In Light Of Climate Change

Shifting environmental factors will affect the way military action is delivered

by Andrea Widener
October 20, 2014 | A version of this story appeared in Volume 92, Issue 42

The Department of Defense is drawing up plans for adapting to the expected impacts of climate change such as rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, rising sea level, and more extreme weather events.

DOD faces an imminent threat from these effects, according to the Pentagon’s “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” which was released last week. Climate change could complicate military challenges ranging from infectious disease to terrorism, the report says.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel calls climate change a “threat multiplier” because it will make many international situations that the military faces even more difficult. For example, it will likely intensify global instability, hunger, poverty, and destruction by natural disasters.

The report warns that potential effects of climate change include an increased demand for humanitarian assistance and a decreased ability to carry out training exercises. At its bases and facilities, the military can expect increased damage from floods and erosion and increased demand for air-conditioning and heating. Climate change will also make it harder to provide supplies around the world, the report says. It recommends evaluation of climate change’s effects in four areas: planning and operations, training and testing, infrastructure, and supply chain.

Hagel told Western Hemisphere defense ministers meeting in Peru last week that the Pentagon is taking the threat of climate change seriously. DOD has almost completed a baseline survey of more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other military facilities. “We will integrate climate change considerations into our planning, operations, and training,” Hagel said.


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