Department of Defense Releases Report on Threat of Climate Change
The Department of Defense (DoD) submitted a Congressionally-mandated report on January 18th, 2019 assessing the “DoD Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense.” The report, required by a bipartisan majority of Congress, evaluates the “significant vulnerability from climate-related events in order to identify high risks to the mission effectiveness on installations and to operations.”
The report begins by noting that “the effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations.” Further, to achieve the goals outlined in the 2018 National Defense Strategy, the DoD must address the threat of climate change. This aligns with ASP’s analysis on how climate change fits into the 2018 National Defense Strategy .
The new DoD report focused their assessment on the vulnerability of 79 “mission assurance priority installations” over the established 20-year timeframe requested by Congress. It is not clear why other installations were not assessed, nor why there a no Marine bases listed. According to the DoD, each installation was assessed based on their vulnerability to the following climate-related events: recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost. In addition, the report highlights the impact to operations, from threats of increased country instability to disaster relief and response operations.
The results showed that about 67% of the installations assessed currently face threats from flooding, 54% currently face threats from drought, and 46% currently face threats from wildfires. Those percentages jump higher when future vulnerabilities, not just current, are taken into consideration. Given that climate change will only intensify over the next few decades, the impacts will likely be much worse than the report suggests.
This report does not meet the requirements that Congress put on the Department. In the coming year, Congress must exercise its appropriate oversight role to further analyze and address the threat, even in the face of oversights and inattention by the Trump Administration. Congress played a critical role throughout 2017 asserting that climate change threatens national security. The American Security Project looks forward to working directly with Members of Congress to further delve into this national security priority.
For the full report DoD Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense.
For ASP’s report on how climate change fits into the 2018 National Defense Strategy, click here.
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