On Thursday, July 18th, ASP CEO Brigadier General Stephen A. Cheney, USMC (Ret.) appeared on Washington D.C.’s local NPR station, WAMU, to speak with 1A about climate change and national security. He joined KUNC investigative and military reporter Michael de Yoanna and Axios reporter Amy Harder on a panel discussing changes occurring in the Arctic, the role of the military in combating climate change, and the impact of dynamics such as rising sea levels and extreme weather on military readiness.
When the conversation turned to the strategic significance of the Artic and climate change’s threat to military readiness in the region, General Cheney offered insight regarding the necessity of new equipment suited to deal with future challenges:
“The Northern Sea Route is now opening… and we are so woefully unprepared for this. The good news is that we’ve budgeted for one ice breaker, but the Russians have forty… We’ve got a long way to go to get ourselves prepared for what is happening in the Northern Sea Route… the potential for catastrophe is huge.”
The panel also debated the place of the U.S. military in fighting climate change, and General Cheney defended the view that due to its impacts on national security, climate change is a vital issue area of interest to the Defense Department.
He noted that: “The ultimate task of the military is the defense of the country, but there are so many other things we are responsible for.” Furthermore, he discussed disaster relief efforts and the vital role of the military in responding to extreme weather events. Citing the deployment of U.S. troops to the Philippines in the wake of Typhoon Haiyan in 2013, General Cheney provided evidence for the United States’ leading role in humanitarian relief efforts related to climate disasters.
As the conversation shifted to energy, General Cheney noted that independence from power grids is a critical aspect of national security. He commented that “the military would love to get off of fossil fuels or not have to pay for it.” Furthermore, he described programs in the Army and the Air Force called Net Zero, which aim to use solar arrays to achieve independence from local power grids as well as the ability to sell power back. This push to move towards different sources of energy is occurring on multiple U.S. military bases across the country.
General Cheney also emphasized the impact of climate change on military readiness, specifically as it affects the ability of new troops to train. He explained how intense heat and humidity leads to black flag days, where training is restricted or halted altogether on military bases. This dynamic is exacerbated by global temperature rise, since “as black flag days multiply, you lose training days, and that has a direct impact on readiness.”
You can read a report on the discussion here.