The defense warns the effects of climate change on the armed forces

(Bloomberg) – The US Department of Defense UU He issued a serious report on how climate change could affect the armed forces and the nation's security, warning that rising seas could flood coastal bases and fires caused by drought could endanger those in danger. inside.

The 22-page evaluation sent to Congress on Thursday says that about two-thirds of the 79 military installations essential to the mission in the United States that were reviewed are vulnerable now or in the future to flooding and more than half are at risk of drought. Nearly half are also at risk of forest fires, including the threat of landslides and the erosion of rains after the flames.

"The effects of a changing climate are a national security problem with possible impacts on missions, operational plans and DOD facilities," Defense Department spokeswoman Heather Babb said in an email.

The report contradicts the opinion of President Donald Trump, who rejected the scientific consensus that climate change is real and man-made. The premise of the report echoes the findings of the National Climate Assessment, written by 13 federal agencies and published in November. He concluded that the effects of global warming are accelerating and will cause a generalized interruption.

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Trump rejected those findings. "I do not think so," he said at the time.

The new Defense Department report, which was ordered by Congress, describes the widespread impacts, scattered across the United States, with more coastal flooding along the East Coast and Hawaii.

US military installations are already experiencing some of the effects, says the Pentagon, noting that the Langley-Eustis Joint Base in Virginia has experienced an increase in sea level of 14 inches since 1930. And the Navy Base of Coronado in California is already subject to flooding during tropical storms.

According to the report, in the Washington area, several Defense Department sites, including Joint Base Andrews, home of Air Force One, are experiencing drought conditions that have been severe in the last 16 years. Those conditions can lead to the breakdown of public service lines and cracked roads, warns the Pentagon, since the humidity disappears from the ground.

The Department of Defense highlights in its report that it is working with nations around the world "to understand and plan future potential impacts of the mission" of climate change, describing it as "a global problem".

But Democratic lawmakers said the Defense Department faced what Senator Jack Reed, the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called a "phone book" of threats without offering a plan of action.

"A mitigation plan to address vulnerabilities is not even minimally discussed," House of Representatives Armed Services Committee chairman Adam Smith said in a statement. Committee member Jim Langevin said the Department of Defense "for no apparent reason" omitted the threat to US bases abroad.

History of the Pentagon

The Pentagon has long expressed its concern about climate change and its military implications around the world.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, who resigned last month, had disagreed with Trump over climate change, and told the Senate Armed Services during his confirmation process that "the Department of Defense should pay attention to possible adverse effects generated by this phenomenon ".

"Climate change is affecting stability in the areas of the world where our troops operate today," Mattis wrote in written responses to the committee's questions. "It is appropriate for Combatant Commands to incorporate into their planning the instability drivers that impact the security environment in their areas."

In 2013, Republican Sen. Jim Inhofe of Oklahoma, who is now chairman of the Senate panel, lobbied Admiral Samuel Locklear, who was the head of the US Pacific Command. UU., To say that their concerns about climate change were being misrepresented by "environmental extremists."

Obama Administration

Instead, Locklear said that about 280,000 people died in natural disasters in the Pacific region from 2008 to 2012. "Now, not all of them were related to climate change or climate, but many of them were," he said. admiral.

Under the Obama administration, responding to the effects of climate on the nation's military was an important initiative, but the Trump administration has adopted a different strategy. Climate change was omitted in 2017 as a threat to the National Security Strategy, a list of the main dangers facing the nation.

"Given the future global demand for energy, much of the developing world will require fossil fuels, as well as other forms of energy, to boost their economies and lift their people out of poverty," said the 2017 strategy. "US. Leadership is indispensable to counteract an energy agenda against growth. "

Shortly after taking office, Trump reversed a memorandum that Obama signed in 2016 and ordered the Department of Defense to take responsibility for climate change in its decisions on where to build new facilities and how to prepare for future threats.

Sen. Dick Durbin, the highest ranking Democrat on the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, responded by calling Trump's decision to rescind the memorandum "a security disaster."

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