Pentagon Warns of Approaching 'Climate Wars'
October 22, 2014
Tim McDonnell / Mother Jones
In one of its strongest statements yet on the need to prepare for climate change, the Defense Department has released a report that says global warming "poses immediate risks to US national security" and will exacerbate national security-related threats ranging "from infectious disease to terrorism." Around the globe, for example, rising sea levels are beginning to encroach on US Naval bases.
Pentagon Says We Could Soon Be Fighting Climate Wars
Tim McDonnell / Mother Jones
(October 14th, 2014) -- In one of its strongest statements yet on the need to prepare for climate change, the Defense Department today released a report that says global warming "poses immediate risks to US national security" and will exacerbate national security-related threats ranging "from infectious disease to terrorism."
The report, embedded below, builds on climate readiness planning at the Pentagon that stretches back to the George W. Bush administration. But today's report is the first to frame climate change as a serious near-term challenge for strategic military operations; previous reports have tended to focus on long-term threats to bases and other infrastructure.
The report "is quite an evolution of the DoD's thinking on understanding and addressing climate threats," said Francesco Femia, co-director of the Center for Climate and Security. "The Department is not looking out into the future, it's looking at what's happening now."
The report identifies anticipated climate impacts to basic military operations, training and testing procedures, infrastructure, and supply chains. It doesn't recommend specific policy changes or detail costs. Rather, it issues a general call for DoD agencies to build climate change into their procedures and to ensure climate change is accounted for in any collaborations with foreign governments and private contractors.
The threat posed by climate change to military bases has long been acknowledged by the Pentagon; a survey of the climate vulnerability of more than 7,000 military facilities worldwide is due to be completed soon.
In May, for example, a report prepared by 11 retired military commanders found that the cluster of 29 installations near Virginia's Chesapeake Bay that together house more than 20 percent of the Navy's fleet could experience up to seven feet of sea level rise by 2100.
Today's report also placed special focus on impacts that are likely to sweep US troops into action in the short term, a sign that top brass are increasingly concerned about "the probability that climate change will increase the likelihood of conflict in strategically significant parts of the world," Femia said.
Water shortages in the Middle East could benefit terrorist organizations, who can exploit hunger and unrest to tighten their grip on locals. Increased shipping traffic in the melting Arctic could spark political tension between polar nations. Increasing prevalence and severity of natural disasters worldwide will become a more significant burden for military-led relief efforts.
Although the report is a product of a 2009 order by President Obama for all federal agencies to evaluate climate risks to their operations, Femia said the strong language is more the result of bottom-up agitation from troop commanders who are witnessing climate change first-hand.
Last year, for example, Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the top US military commander in the Pacific, singled out climate change as a principle concern for his operations.
Tim McDonnell is Climate Desk's associate producer. Follow him on Twitter or send him an email at email@example.com.
"It's Not Just a Job, It's a Venture!"
Advanced biofuels now cost $4.55 per gallon to make. But the Energy Department projects that will fall to $2.32 by 2017, in part due to the Pentagon's early R&D investments.
The Navy, USDA, and the DOE are each spending $170 million on private-sector companies building biofuel refineries. Combined with $3.4 billion of existing private capital, this investment will lead to an estimated 26 new refineries by 2015. Another $53 billion in public-private investment is anticipated by 2022.
By 2020 those refineries will create:
$9.6-$19.8 billion in economic activity
14,000-17,000 new jobs
Of those jobs:
10,300 will be in biorefinery construction
2,800-4,600 will be agricultural
1,200 will be in biorefinery operation
Military demand is helping to shape the early market and scale the advanced biofuel industry, which could help commercial aviation and other industries expand their use. This is not unlike how the Pentagon helped develop radar, GPS, and microchips last century:
By 2020, the Navy will need 8 million barrels of biofuels a year and the civilian sector will need another 500 million barrels to meet the EPA's 2022 renewable fuel standards. So while those 26 refineries will help generate 310 million barrels, we've got a ways to go.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.