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Defense Department Report on Effects of Climate Change

Last week the Department of Defense (“DOD”) released a report concerning the impacts of climate change on 79 of its installations, as well as DOD operations. The report found increasing effects from sea level rise, wild fires and other aspects of climate change.

”The Mlitary Departments noted the presence or not of current and potential vulnerabilities to each installation over the next 20 years, selecting from the events listed below. Note that the congressional request established the 20-year timeframe.
Climate-Related Events
 Recurrent Flooding
 Drought
 Desertification
 Wildfires
 Thawing Permafrost”

Some of the issues related to sea level rise and flood include:

”Joint Base Langley-Eustis (JBLE-Langley AFB), Virginia, has experienced 14 inches in sea level rise since 1930 due to localized land subsidence and sea level rise. Flooding at JBLE- Langley, with a mean sea level elevation of three feet, has become more frequent and severe.
Navy Base Coronado experiences isolated and flash flooding during tropical storm events, particularly in El Niño years. Upland Special Areas are subject to flash floods. The main installation reports worsening sea level rise and storm surge impacts that include access limitations and other logistic related impairments.”

Somewhat surprisingly, the Report notes significant incidents of drought since the early 2000a.

”Specific to military readiness, droughts can have broad implications for base infrastructure, impair testing activities, and along with increased temperature, can increase the number of black flag day prohibitions for testing and training. Drought can contribute to heat- related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, outlined by the U.S. Army Public Health Center. Energy consumption may increase to provide additional cooling for facilities.
Several DoD sites in the DC area (including Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, Joint Base Andrews, U.S. Naval Observatory/Naval Support Facility, and Washington Navy Yard) periodically experienced drought conditions –extreme in 2002 and severe from 2002 through 2018. In addition, Naval Air Station Key West experienced drought in 2015 and 2011, ranging from extreme to severe, respectively. These examples highlight that drought conditions may occur in places not typically perceived as drought regions.
Drought conditions have caused significant reduction in soil moisture at several Air Force bases resulting in deep or wide cracks in the soil, at times leading to ruptured utility lines and cracked road surfaces.”

The Report also notes increasing incidents of wild fires that impair DOD operations.

”Due to routine training and testing activities that are significant ignition sources, wildfires are a constant concern on many military installations. As a result, the DoD spends considerable resources on claims, asset loss, and suppression activities due to wildfire. While fire is a key ecological process with benefits for both sound land management and military capability development, other climatic factors including increased wind and drought can lead to an increased severity of wildfire activity. This could result in infrastructure and testing/training impacts.”

The Report goes on to discuss many other impacts of climate change on operations of the DOD, including humanitarian responses, rescue efforts in the Artic region and ;

“ Changes in the manner in which DoD maintains readiness and provides support.

 Changes to what DoD may be asked to support.
Vulnerabilities to Mission Execution and Operational/Posture Plans
The National Defense Strategy sets the strategic priorities for the Department and, in turn, the Combatant Commands (CCMD). The CCMD missions may be affected by timing and severity of climate events, which may affect mission in some cases.
“When I look at climate change, it’s in the category of sources of conflict around the world and things we’d have to respond to. So it can be great devastation requiring humanitarian assistance — disaster relief — which the U.S. military certainly conducts routinely.”
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Dunford, November 2018
Country Instability Issues: In the United States Africa Command (USAFRICOM) Area of Responsibility (AOR), rainy season flooding and drought/desertification are very important factors in mission execution on the continent. Flooding and earthquake-induced tsunamis in Indonesia contribute to instability in the Indo-Pacific Command (INDOPACOM).
Logistics and Mission Support Issues: Weather conditions over the Mediterranean Sea currently impact intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR), personnel recovery/casualty evacuation and logistics flights from Europe to the African continent; potentially increasing no-go flight days.”

Steven Silverberg