Pentagon Declares Climate Change a National Security Threat


Carly White

On Oct. 13, the Pentagon released a report entitled the “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap” to address the environmental threat that climate change poses. According to the Department of Defense, current climate change directly affects their “ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.”

Global warming has been monitored for several decades by organizations such as The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA), which has measured the steady decrease in Arctic sea ice since the 1970’s. A record low volume of sea ice was recorded in 2012, and an estimated 1.3 million square miles of Arctic sea ice have been lost over the past three decades. Some scientists predict that the future may contain completely iceless summers in the Arctic.

The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) predicts a rise in temperature anywhere from 2.5-10 degrees Fahrenheit over the next century. This increase in temperature will have varying effects in different regions due to unique societal and environmental factors, but the IPCC predicts the annual costs of climate change will continue to increase over time.

According to the Pentagon, these environmental changes have an impact on how the military functions.

The effects of global warming and extreme weather “will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict,” said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. “They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

According to Hagel, the limited availability of resources caused by climate change will cause civil unrest in many sensitive areas around the globe, including the Middle East. Global warming will also increase the frequency and severity of natural disasters in countries that do not have the resources to recover on their own.

The negative effects of climate change in other countries is predicted to cause a diversion of U.S. troops overseas to assist with their social and economic problems. This means placing soldiers in potentially dangerous situations that would otherwise be unnecessary.

Coastal military installations are at risk due to rising sea levels and increased flooding. Droughts, wildfires, and extreme temperatures will also threaten many training exercises. Supply chains will be impacted by extreme weather, and equipment is often prone to failure in extreme temperatures.

The Department of Defense further claims that financial support–among other resources–will be spent on assisting situations and providing disaster relief around the world.

The Climate Change Adaptation Road Map has set three goals to focus on in accommodating to climate change. These goals include gauging the effects of climate change, incorporating concern for environmental changes across the department, and collaborating with stakeholders.

The plan also introduces ideas of adapting to environments and infrastructures, developing new technologies, and creating innovative methods of supply distribution and training to counteract difficulties caused by extreme weather. The plan does not mention making changes to reduce environmental impact for the future.