How the US military is waging a war on climate change

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While U.S. coastal military bases are routinely plagued by flooding, extreme storm surges, and lack of potable water in decades or so, humans may still be arguing over whether climate change is real. But this debate doesn’t really matter to the Pentagon: given that more than 1,700 of these bases around the world are threatened by rising sea levels, what to do about it is much more important.

Melting ice caps and glaciers and expanding water from rising ocean temperatures have contributed to a 7 to 8 inch rise in sea level since 1900. Although this may not seem like a significant , a study of bases on low-lying Pacific atolls found that a 15-inch rise in sea level would render groundwater unusable year-round (among other problems) — bad news for outposts of Guam and the Marshall Islands which will be increasingly important in the face of a Chinese army undergoing a rapid modernization effort.

Meanwhile, according to a recent Defense Department climate risk analysis, an Arctic thaw will create a “new frontier of geostrategic competition,” primarily with Russia. And the damage in the United States caused by extreme weather to military barracks, shipyards, aircraft hangars and other critical infrastructure will undoubtedly cost American taxpayers billions in replacement and repair costs.

The pathway by which snow and ice influence climate is evident in this detailed photo-like image of Arctic sea ice, captured June 16, 2001 by NASA’s Landsat-7 satellite. (NASA)

“Even with aggressive international and whole-of-government action to mitigate future climate change, many effects on the physical environment are now unavoidable and will continue to shape our security environment,” the DoD analysis states.

Nevertheless, the US military has no choice but to adapt and learn to operate in such a world, which is why Task & Purpose will explore these questions during War and climate week from now on.

About four years ago, twin hurricanes caused more than $8 billion in damage to two separate US military bases. A “direct hit” at Tyndall Air Force Base resulted in catastrophic damage to facilities and the loss of 17 F-22 Raptors, a stealthy and expensive aircraft that cannot be replaced in US inventory. The previous month, several Marine Corps bases in North Carolina suffered a destructive “punch” of 20 to 30 inches of rain and storm surges up to 13 feet. Max Hauptman will explore these incidents and explain how extreme weather is costing the military billions of dollars in damage – and it’s only getting worse.

How the US military is waging a war on climate change
A hearth training facility at Tyndall Air Force Base, Florida, destroyed after Hurricane Michael. (DVIDS)

A warming climate also means more potential for devastating wildfires, and it means more work for Air Force service members, who are routinely called upon to lead firefighting efforts and suppress blazes from forest. David Roza will show us why fighting wildfires can be one of the toughest flights Air Force crews make outside of combat.

Disasters will also strain the National Guard, the Department of Defense’s “Swiss army knife” that has helped with everything from responding to natural disasters and supporting hospitals during the COVID-19 pandemic to responding to unrest. civilians, through the maintenance of order at the border. , and even serve as school bus drivers. Haley Britzky will explain how climate change is likely to wear down the Guard even more.

Finally, Jeff Schogol will shed light on the extent of the US military’s reliance on fossil fuels and why such reliance is likely to pose a long-term threat to national security.

Climate change is a “destabilizing force in the world,” according to the Pentagon. And one day, a young soldier or Marine may be deployed to a distant country, at least in part because of this, perhaps to resolve disputes over scarce resources or to participate in humanitarian missions. Is there anything being done in the meantime to adjust and possibly fix the problem? That’s what we’re going to find out.

welcome to War and climate week.

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