Neela Banerjee / Inside Climate News & John H. Cushman, Jr. / Inside Climate News & Nicholas Kusnetz / Inside Climate News & The Weather Channel & Phil McKenna / Inside Climate News – 2018-03-02 13:43:47
Sea Level Rise Damaging More
US Bases, Former Top Military Brass Warn
Neela Banerjee / Inside Climate News
(February 26, 2018) — A growing number of US military sites are being damaged by sea level rise fueled by climate change, and that will threaten the military’s ability to protect vital national security interests if the Pentagon and Congress don’t take faster action, a panel of retired admirals and generals warns in a new report.
More than 200 domestic installations reported in a recent Defense Department assessment that they had been flooded by storm surges, compared to about 30 in 2008, the new report released Monday by the Center for Climate and Security says.
The report spotlights flooding and erosion risks to installations as diverse as the Marine Corps’ boot camp at Parris Island in South Carolina, the nuclear submarine repair site in Portsmouth Naval Shipyard in Maine and a missile defense system against possible attacks from Asia based in the Marshall Islands. It’s based on a synthesis of Congressional testimony by Pentagon officials and several federal studies in the last 18 months about the impact of climate change on national security.
“A number of coastal military bases and training sites are already experiencing the effects of sea level rise, tidal flooding and storm surge, and recent research shows that these effects are accelerating and will continue to do so more quickly than previously thought,” said Heather Messera, who chaired the committee that wrote the report.
“Now is both the operationally practical and fiscally responsible time to act,” she said.
Despite widespread denial of climate change in the Trump administration, led by the president himself, Defense Secretary James Mattis has said that climate change poses risks to global stability and national security. So far, the Pentagon has been left alone as it works on improving the military’s resilience to climate change. But the efforts are patchy and often dependent on the priorities of installation commanders, which can vary from base to base, national security experts said.
A 2017 report by the federal Government Accountability Officeconcluded that the military is failing to properly plan for climate change and that bases seldom include foreseeable impacts into planning.
To date, the Pentagon has not concluded a full assessment “of sea level rise and broader climate impacts on US military and national security,” the new analysis says. This, despite the fact that 1,774 military installations in the US and abroad are in coastal areas.
“Many actions to adapt to climate change are happening sporadically, and those gaps should be addressed,” said Francesco Femia, co-president of the Center for Climate and National Security, a Washington, D.C., think whose fellows include many former high-ranking military officers. “It’s up to our nation’s policy makers to support the DoD.”
Growing Security Fears about Climate Change
The new report arrives during an uptick of scrutiny into climate change’s potential impact on national security.
In November, President Trump signed the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, which included a mandate from Congress for the Pentagon to identify the 10 top sites threatened by climate change. The language was a departure for the Republican-controlled Congress, which has worked for years to halt rules and bills to address climate change. The Pentagon’s list is due by November 2018.
In January, the Pentagon issued a report based on surveys of nearly 1,700 domestic military sites in which respondents from about 50 percent of the installations said they face risks from climate change.
In mid-February, the country’s intelligence agencies said in their annual report on global threats that “the impacts of the long-term trends toward a warming climate, more air pollution, biodiversity loss and water scarcity are likely to fuel economic and social discontent — and possibly upheaval — through 2018.”
The new report describes the great breadth of vulnerabilities to sea level rise, including loss of life; loss of infrastructure; loss of the electricity to run sites, including critical cybersecurity and communications installations; damage to equipment used in missions; loss of training lands; and loss of transportation means and corridors.
Risks in the South China Sea
The report described what could happen because of climate change in one region of increasing strategic importance: the South China Sea.
US installations in the area face seasonal tropical cyclones, which research suggests could grow more intense over time. If hit by a cyclone, a base risks enduring what the civilian population would also face: loss of life, electricity, buildings, roads and equipment.
The base would either have to rebound quickly or reduce the chances of such damage in the first place, the report says. Otherwise, it risks leaving American interests vulnerable in a volatile region, possibly for weeks or months.
Further, the US benefits from deploying “soft power” around the world when the military brings in humanitarian aid and rescue equipment to other nations after a disaster. An installation coping with its own damage from a Pacific cyclone would be hampered in its ability to help regional allies, the report says.
Ways the Military Can Respond
The panel issued a series of recommendations for the military as the risks increase, including:
* Continuously identifying infrastructure and strategic and operational vulnerabilities and concretely addressing them.
* Integrating climate scenarios into planning.
* Using not just the most-likely scenarios in planning but also the possibility of catastrophic failures.
* Working with local communities and international partners.
The Center for Climate and Security said in an earlier analysis that the Pentagon had estimated the overall value of its infrastructure in the Pacific is about $180 billion, more than “the combined 2014 budgets of the Departments of Commerce, Energy, Homeland Security, State and Transportation.”
According to John Conger, senior policy advisor at the Center for Climate and Security and a former assistant secretary in the Department of Defense, the overall value of the Defense Department’s installations around the world, including the US, exceeds $1 trillion.
Intelligence Agencies Warn of Climate Risks
in Worldwide Threat Assessment
While top Trump administration officials deny climate change,
the intelligence agencies warn global warming
can fuel disasters and violent conflicts
John H. Cushman, Jr. / Inside Climate News
(February 13, 2018) — In their annual summary of global threats, the nation’s intelligence agencies warned on Tuesday that climate change and other environmental trends “are likely to fuel economic and social discontent — and possibly upheaval — through 2018.”
While there may not be indications of an abrupt and cataclysmic event on the immediate horizon, the trends are already visible, they said in a statement presented to the Senate Intelligence Committee at a hearing where the Trump administration’s top intelligence officials testified.
The statement was matter-of-fact and brief, but unambiguous. Normally, conclusions like these might not deserve much notice. But in an administration where top officials, including some with intelligence responsibilities, have repeatedly questioned the basic science of global warming, such a frank confirmation of the mainstream consensus was striking.
The intelligence agencies’ Worldwide Threat Assessment contrasted with two other recent documents issued by the Trump administration: the National Defense Strategy published in January and the National Security Strategy published in December. Both of those broke from the pattern of recent years and omitted climate change as a significant concern.
The intelligence community, instead, aligned itself with science agencies. The report’s views reflect those in the thoroughly peer-reviewed interagency National Climate Assessment issued last year, and the facts consistently reported by major scientific agencies like NOAA and NASA.
“Extreme weather events in a warmer world have the potential for greater impacts and can compound with other drivers to raise the risk of humanitarian disasters, conflict, water and food shortages, population migration, labor shortfalls, price shocks, and power outages,” the intelligence threat assessment said. It was presented as the written testimony of Dan Coats, the director of national intelligence appointed by President Donald Trump.
“Worsening air pollution from forest burning, agricultural waste incineration, urbanization, and rapid industrialization — with increasing public awareness — might drive protests against authorities, such as those recently in China, India, and Iran,” the assessment said.
“Accelerating biodiversity and species loss — driven by pollution, warming, unsustainable fishing, and acidifying oceans — will jeopardize vital ecosystems that support critical human systems. Recent estimates suggest that the current extinction rate is 100 to 1,000 times the natural extinction rate.”
Water scarcity and disease outbreaks, two problems related to climate change, also pose risks, it said.
So does the most striking sign of the upheaval, waves of refugees displaced by complex stresses of climate, disease, poverty and other destabilizing factors, the report warned.
“Challenges from urbanization and migration will persist, while the effects of air pollution, inadequate water, and climate change on human health and livelihood will become more noticeable,” the assessment said. “Domestic policy responses to such issues will become more difficult — especially for democracies — as publics become less trusting of authoritative information sources.”
US Military Not Doing Enough
To Prepare Bases for Climate Change, GAO Warns
The Pentagon has been praised for starting
to address global warming, but a report for Congress
finds the risks aren’t tracked well enough at facilities overseas
Nicholas Kusnetz / Inside Climate News
(December 14, 2017) — The auditing arm of Congress has warned that the military is failing to adequately plan for the risks that climate change poses to hundreds of overseas facilities, and that engineers at these sites rarely include foreseeable impacts in project designs.
The Government Accountability Office, Congress’s nonpartisan oversight agency, wrote that while the Defense Department has identified that climate change and its effects will threaten many of its facilities, these installations are not consistently tracking costs they’re already incurring because of extreme weather.
“As a result,” the report says, “the military services lack the information they need to adapt infrastructure at overseas installations to weather effects associated with climate change and develop accurate budget estimates for infrastructure sustainment.”
The report, requested by a group of Senate Democrats and released on Wednesday, found that the Pentagon had exempted dozens of bases or other key sites from completing a department-wide climate vulnerability assessment.
The authors also found that only a third of the 45 military installations they visited had incorporated climate change adaptation into their planning.
The GAO concluded with a series of recommendations, including that the Pentagon should:
* require all military facilities to track costs associated with climate change and extreme weather;
* incorporate adaptation into the development of installation-level plans; and
* administer a climate vulnerability survey at all relevant sites.
A Defense Department response was included in the report with a letter signed by Lucian Niemeyer, who President Donald Trump nominated to be assistant secretary of defense for energy, installations and environment. It pushed back against some of the findings, stating that blaming infrastructure damage specifically on climate change is “speculative at best” and that “associating a single event to climate change is difficult and does not warrant the time and money expended in doing so.”
The response also accused the GAO of using outdated Defense Department policies, saying the Pentagon is in the process of updating the National Defense Strategy “to focus resources on threats considered to be critical to our nation’s security.”
Military Recognizes Climate Risk Is Already Here
Many climate advocates and planners have praised the military for beginning to address climate change, including trying to assess and warn of the impacts it will have on national security.
Global warming is expected to bring more severe weather and higher seas that will flood some bases, strain their water supplies, inhibit training exercises with extreme heat and, according to the Pentagon, worsen instability in parts of the globe. In some cases, these effects have already arrived.
Wednesday’s report, however, suggests that the Pentagon has much more work to do.
Naval Station Norfolk, the Navy’s largest base, already experiences regular tidal flooding that can block roads and parking lots and shut some of its piers. A 2014 report by the Army Corps of Engineers identified about 1.5 feet of sea level rise as a “tipping point” for the base, beyond which the risk of damage to infrastructure will increase dramatically, yet the base has no plan to address that threat.
Climate Risk Examples: Flooding, Heat, Storms
The report authors said officials at most of the 45 installations they visited described risks to the facilities from the changing climate.
At a missile testing range in the Pacific, extreme tides in 2008 flooded two antenna facilities, while more recent storms have damaged piers and buildings. A facility in the Middle East has begun experiencing more days that are hot enough to suspend all non-essential physical training and exercise.
But the report said the department exempted some facilities from its system-wide survey of climate vulnerability without adequate explanation. In some cases, the department simply stated that a facility did not face any climate related weather risks but gave no assessment of how it arrived at that determination.
Another shortcoming identified by the report is that hardly any of the sites the authors visited actually incorporated climate adaptation into project designs. Climate change was not included in the design of a $49 million infrastructure project involving a canal in Europe, for example, even though officials said the canal is vulnerable to increased flooding from sea level rise.
A project replacing doors at a facility in the Pacific doesn’t consider the potential for increasingly strong winds from typhoons.
Rising Seas Are Flooding Virginiaâ€™s Naval Base,
And Thereâ€™s No Plan to Fix It
The giant naval base at Norfolk is
under threat by rising seas and sinking land,
but little is being done to hold back the tides
Nicholas Kusnetz / Inside Climate News & The Weather Channel
NORFOLK, Virginia(October 25, 2017) â€“ The one-story brick firehouse at Naval Station Norfolk sits pinched between a tidal inlet and Willoughby Bay. The station houses the first responders to any emergency at the neighboring airfield. Yet when a big storm hits or the tides surge, the land surrounding it floods. Even on a sunny day this spring, with the tide out, the field beside the firehouse was filled with water.
“It’s not supposed to be a pond,” said Joe Bouchard, a retired captain and former base commander. “It is now.”
Naval Station Norfolk, home to the Atlantic Fleet, floods not just in heavy rains or during hurricanes. It floods when the sun is shining, too, if the tide is high or the winds are right. It floods all the time.
“It is an impediment to the base accomplishing its mission,” Bouchard said.
Once or twice a month, seawater subsumes steam lines that run along the bottom of the piers where the fleet’s ships are moored. It bubbles up through storm drains and closes roads. “It can actually shut down operations, or make it very difficult for people to get around,” Bouchard said.
Climate change poses an immediate threat to Norfolk. The seas are rising at twice the global average here, due to ocean currents and geology. Yet while the region is home to the densest collection of military facilities in the nation, the Pentagon has barely begun the hard work of adaptation.
A detailed study in 2014 by the US Army Engineer Research and Development Center identified about 1.5 feet of sea level rise as a “tipping point” for the base that would dramatically increase the risk of serious damage to infrastructure. But there is no plan to address this level of rise, which scientists expect within a few decades.
The city of Norfolk, which surrounds the base, is also under siege. Sections of the main road that leads to the base become impassable several times a year. Some residents check tide charts before leaving for work or parking their cars for the night.
“These guys are in a whole heap ton of trouble,” said retired Rear Adm. David Titley. Before he joined Penn State’s Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk, Titley served as the Navy’s oceanographer and navigator and led its Climate Change Task Force.
“I think Norfolk is, in the long term, fighting for its existence, its very existence,” Titley said. “And this is the part of climate change that I don’t think most Americans have really come to grips with — that virtually every coastal city is in a fight for its existence. They just don’t know it yet.”
While Norfolk is particularly vulnerable, rising seas are threatening hundreds of other US military bases around the world. Now, under a president who has said he will pull the US out of the Paris climate agreement and has begun reversing much of the federal government’s effort to address the problem, it seems doubtful the military will begin new adaptation work.
The Pentagon, which wove consideration of climate change into nearly every aspect of its operations under President Barack Obama, declined to discuss the topic for this article.
Naval Station Norfolk, which sprawls over the northwestern corner of its namesake city, was established 100 years ago on the former site of the Jamestown Exposition, at a time when the water was a foot and a half lower. It’s the largest of 18 major military sites in the region, known as Hampton Roads, which is home to 1.7 million people.
The area is pancake flat, and much of the base sits on landfill that’s compressing, creating dips in the road here and there. Parts of the facility lie close to sea level, and many of the stormwater outfalls are covered by the tides.
Driving around the base in a white Lexus sedan on a bright day, Bouchard turned off the road to examine a flood gate on a tidal creek that bisects the facility. The gate is better than nothing, he said, but it creates a dilemma for engineers during storms: The choices are to shut it and let the creek swell because rainwater has nowhere to go, or leave it open and allow the sea to surge in. “We just did Band-Aid fixes,” he said, referring to the gate and other stopgap measures.
Since retiring from the Navy in 2003, Bouchard has become an evangelist for adapting the area to sea level rise. He worked on an intergovernmental pilot project initiated by the Obama administration, and served briefly in the Virginia state legislature.
As he toured the base, Bouchard could hardly finish a sentence without being distracted by another site prone to flooding — the road that leads to an electronics facility full of navigation equipment for the runway, ammunition depots tucked away in dense woods, parking lots along the piers. “This area floods,” he said, pointing across a roughly kept field abutting officers’ housing. “It floods right up to the houses.”
Sea levels are rising everywhere, but Norfolk has it worse. The land, pushed up by glaciers to the north thousands of years ago, is now sinking as much as an inch-and-a-half per decade. Scientists also believe that a slowing Gulf Stream is causing seas to rise faster along the Mid-Atlantic coast.
High tides at the Sewell Point gauge, off the base, have been inching ever closer to the so-called “nuisance flood” level, where many roads and yards become inundated. The hourly water level chart shows the two may not be far off from meeting on a daily basis.
A 2014 Defense Department study determined that “several critical systems” at the base were “likely to be incapacitated” if the sea rose more than 3 feet. Even half that would represent a “tipping point” after which “the probabilities of damage to infrastructure and losses in mission performance increased dramatically.” A 2013 state-commissioned report projected 1.5 feet of rise within 20 to 50 years.
The Union of Concerned Scientists did its own analysis and determined that with sea level rise of just 1.4 feet, the base’s low-lying areas would flood about 280 times each year, spending 10 percent of the time underwater.
To avoid catastrophe, Bouchard said, the base needs a complete overhaul. “The list is endless,” he said. “The electrical systems, telecommunications, everything is vulnerable.”
In 2014, then-Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel wrote in the department’s climate change adaptation roadmap that “we are beginning work to address a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet over the next 20 to 50 years” in Hampton Roads. But if you ask the Navy today, it seems there’s little work actually underway.
“There are no funded projects specifically addressing sea level rise,” said Capt. Dean VanderLey, head of engineering for much of the Navy’s East Coast facilities. VanderLey’s carefully crafted phrase reflects the fact that while the Navy has incorporated climate adaptation into planning and operations, it rarely initiates construction primarily for that purpose.
Behind VanderLey as he spoke, for example, stretched one of four double-decker piers the Navy has built over the past 15 years. While the new design raised utility lines out of the flood zone, they were erected not to adapt to rising seas but because the old piers needed replacement. VanderLey’s team accounts for rising seas when it designs new buildings or refurbishes old ones, lifting generators out of basements, for example, or building new facilities above the floodplain.
In January, the Navy published a climate change adaptation handbook to aid these efforts with detailed guidelines. The Navy is also in the midst of a Joint Land Use Study with surrounding communities examining how sea level rise may affect the area.
The question is whether this as-you-fix-it method is enough. Replacement of the piers halted after automatic spending cuts went into effect in 2013. While Donald Trump has proposed tens of billions of dollars in new military spending for next year, VanderLey said he doesn’t expect money for new piers, which cost $150 million to $200 million each, for at least a few years.
“They’re going to have to build seawalls all around the base,” Bouchard said. “They’re going to have to rebuild the drainage system. They’ll need to finish the piers.” He guessed that work would take a decade and cost at least $1 billion — finishing the piers alone could flirt with that figure.
But VanderLey, Bouchard, and several other retired Navy officers told InsideClimate News there is no specific plan to begin this work. “They haven’t had any money to spend, so in terms of action, no, not much in the way of action,” Bouchard said.
Rear Adm. Ann Phillips, who retired in 2014 and has continued to work on the issue, said Navy officials are trying to keep a low profile. “I think they’re afraid they’ll be prohibited from doing something if they directly tie it to sea level rise or climate change,” she said. “They’re terrified it will be defunded.”
J. Pat Rios, who held VanderLey’s position until retiring last year, said the Navy is beginning to address the threat. “We’re doing the best we can with what we’ve got. We are assuming some risks, but we all take risks every day,” he said.
While he thinks the risk is acceptable for now, it would only take one hurricane to change the calculus. “That storm could come some day in the future and could cause magnified damage, and then we would be filled with a lot of regrets with the risks that we took.”
About Face on Climate
In 2008, Congress asked the Defense Department to assess its climate risks, prompting the Pentagon to include the issue in the 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review.
In the ensuing years, President Obama issued several executive orders and memoranda that further entrenched consideration of climate change into nearly every aspect of the department’s operations, from planning and deployment to facilities maintenance and construction.
As early as 2008, the military identified 30 facilities that were experiencing “increased risk” from sea level rise. More recently, it’s been assessing the threat to each of its more than 7,000 bases and other sites worldwide. Last year, the department’s environmental research program published a technical assessment that presented sea level rise scenarios for 1,774 military sites.
“We can no longer just assume that the basic infrastructure that supports our military and has for centuries is going to be there in the future,” said retired Vice Adm. Dennis McGinn, who was assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment under Obama.
Many of the department’s findings are classified, but the Union of Concerned Scientists last year assessed the impacts of sea level rise on 18 military facilities on the Atlantic and Gulf coasts. It considered two scenarios — one that assumed a rise of 3.7 feet by 2100 and another with 6.3 feet — and determined that in both cases all but two of the facilities would suffer more than 100 floods per year in low-lying areas by 2050. By 2100, in the 6.3-foot scenario, eight of the sites would see more than half their land flooded on a daily basis. Naval Air Station Key West, the worst hit, would be almost entirely submerged by high tides.
In March, Trump rescinded a series of Obama-era actions on climate, including at least two that applied to the Defense Department. While the change does not prohibit the department from continuing climate-related work, it removes many requirements. Congress may continue to press the military on sea level rise, however.
In July, the House approved an amendment to the defense authorization bill that states “climate change is a direct threat to the national security of the United States,” and that “military installations must be able to effectively prepare to mitigate climate damage” to infrastructure. The amendment would require the department to issue a report within a year on the vulnerabilities to its facilities.
The language now has to clear a conference committee with the Senate, which passed its own version of the bill in September without any climate amendments. During his July confirmation hearing, Richard Spencer, Trump’s pick for Navy secretary, responded to questioning by saying he was “totally aware of the rising water issue” and promised to prepare the branch for climate change.
Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said he thinks military leaders will continue working on climate change despite Trump’s resistance. But he said Congress hasn’t provided enough funding, and the current political climate won’t help. “It’s not going to be easy,” he said.
Protecting the City
Even if the Norfolk base got all the money it needed, and hoisted everything out of the floodplain, it would be worthless if the surrounding cities weren’t protected too. Just to the south, on the far side of the Lafayette River, a tiny corner of Norfolk’s Larchmont-Edgewater neighborhood shows how difficult that will be. The area is home to many military families and is bisected by Hampton Boulevard, the main route between downtown and the naval station.
Beginning in 2010, the city gave in to the relentless creep of the water by converting a tiny park at the end of a finger-shaped inlet into a wetland. The project also raised a stretch of road that runs along the park. All told, the work cost $1.25 million. It worked, and on a drizzly May morning with a full-moon high tide, the new road was clear.
But the elevated section is only five houses long. Where the road curves along the sides of the inlet, the river had spilled over its banks, reaching past the street and up to the front lawn of a small brick house. Dark green wetland plants sprouted in the lawn. Just to the right, a nearly identical home sat jacked up on cinderblocks, the main floor at eye level, raised three feet above the base flood elevation, a requirement for any new construction.
Along its 144 miles of shoreline, Norfolk has to raise homes and roads, revamp drainage systems, build seawalls and replace concrete bulkheads with living shorelines and earthen berms. And these are not projects for later in the century.
“It’s a now problem,” said Skip Stiles, who runs a nonprofit called Wetlands Watch and is a leading advocate of adaptation in the region.
Norfolk is trying to embrace its extreme vulnerability as an opportunity, to become “the Silicon Valley of sea level rise,” said George Homewood, its planning director, whose business card is stamped with the city’s mermaid mascot. Norfolk received$120 million in federal funding last year to reshape another vulnerable neighborhood by elevating roads and erecting berms and floodwalls.
The city’s plans are laid out in “Vision 2100,” a document that describes how Norfolk can adapt over the next century. It divides the city into four zones, with a “red zone” of high risk and high value — including all of downtown and the naval base — where expensive fixes like seawalls are needed. (Part of downtown is already protected by a barrier erected after a storm flooded the area in 1962.)
Much of the city’s shoreline, including Larchmont-Edgewater, falls in a “yellow zone,” where Norfolk cannot afford such expensive projects and will instead hope for a mix of innovation, private funding and, ultimately, planned abandonment.
The city says a rise of 2.6 feet would flood about 5 percent of its land on a daily basis and place nearly half of Norfolk in a high-risk flood zone. Most projections say such a rise will come some time in the second half of this century. And it won’t stop there. “The numbers we’re playing with are 3 meters in 100 years,” Homewood said.
No one has ventured realistic estimates for costs, but everyone seems to agree there won’t be enough money to protect everything. “How much money as a country are we going to put into Norfolk, Virginia? Is it $1 billion? Is it $10 billion? Is it $50 billion?” asked Titley, the retired admiral. “Over the next century or so, we’re talking at least in the tens of billions and probably in the hundreds of billions to protect parts of Hampton Roads.”
The 2013 state-sponsored study, which projected 1.5 feet of sea level rise within 20 to 50 years, said it takes two to three decades to plan and implement adaptation strategies. “We’re rapidly approaching the go/no-go point,” Stiles said.
He pointed to a bridge in Virginia Beach that was first proposed in 2005 and is slated for completion next year. “That’s 13 years for a four-lane bridge. So if we don’t start pretty soon thinking about adding additional margins of safety, the ribbon cutting on the decisions we’re making today will be done in 15 or 20 years and the water will be X feet higher.”
At high tide, Stiles drove to the Hague, a crescent-shaped inlet where the Elizabeth River enters one of Norfolk’s historic neighborhoods. The Army Corps of Engineers is considering installing a tide gate on the inlet, at a cost of $70 to $90 million. Stiles stopped in the parking lot of an apartment building at the edge of the water and got out to look towards the Chrysler Museum, a grand limestone construction at one end of the inlet.
The Hague was spilling over its banks, covering the entire road ahead. “They’ll build this up,” he said, musing about what the area might look like in a few decades. “They’ll build a wall, they’ll put pumps in, they’ll protect it. But 80 years? That’s the head-scratcher. Because if in 80 years we get three feet of water . . . ” Three feet would have put Stiles thigh-deep. “It’s hard to imagine a lot of this stuff still being here.”
106 Lawmakers Urge Trump:
Restore Climate Change in National Security Strategy
The bipartisan letter says that as global
temperatures become more volatile and sea levels rise,
military installations and communities are increasingly at risk
Phil McKenna / Inside Climate News
(January 16, 2018) — A bipartisan group of more than 100 members of Congress is urging President Donald Trump to recognize climate change as a national security threat.
US Reps. Jim Langevin (D-R.I.) and Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) wrote a letter to the president signed by 106 members of Congress on Thursday in response to the administration’s failure to mention the risks of climate change in its National Security Strategy, released last month. Eleven Republicans signed the letter, including members of the House Armed Services, Foreign Affairs and Intelligence committees.
“We have heard from scientists, military leaders and civilian personnel who believe that climate change is indeed a direct threat to America’s national security and to the stability of the world at large,” the lawmakers wrote.
“As global temperatures become more volatile, sea levels rise, and landscapes change, our military installations and our communities are increasingly at risk of devastation. It is imperative that the United States addresses this growing geopolitical threat.”
The lawmakers urged the president to “reconsider this omission” in the National Security Strategy.
The previous National Security Strategy, produced in 2015 by the Obama administration, listed climate change among the top strategic risks.
Omitting climate change from the National Security Strategy won’t prohibit the Department of Defense from continuing to act on climate change — the 2018 National Defense Authorization Act, passed by Congress and signed by Trump in December, explicitly recognizes climate change as a national security threat. But the lawmakers’ response to the administration’s strategy stands out, climate and national security experts say.
“The center has moved in Congress,” said John Conger, a senior policy advisor at the Center for Climate and Security, a nonpartisan think tank in Washington, D.C., and former Department of Defense official in the Obama administration. Congress “is sending a message to the administration that, on a bipartisan basis, they think that the national security apparatus must take climate change into account.”
In recent years, the military has discussed climate change as a threat multiplier, with rising temperatures, extreme weather and sea level rise undermining base security, contributing to the risk of global instability and creating new access in the Arctic.
A recent Congressional report, however, warned that the military is failing to adequately plan for the risks that climate change poses to hundreds of overseas facilities.
David Titley, a retired rear admiral who is director of the Center for Solutions to Weather and Climate Risk at Penn State, said “facts on the ground” including the recent fires in California and the devastating Atlantic hurricane season are moving the needle in Congress, which he sees as a key driver for addressing climate change.
“Really, the long game is what Congress thinks,” Titley said. “Administrations come and go, but Congress passes laws and has a checkbook.”
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