Table Of Contents
- Risks and Challenges
- International Threats
- Threats to U.S. Military Facilities
- Readiness and Solutions
In its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, the U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) officially recognized climate change as a factor worthy of consideration in future national security planning. The report stated, “Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment,” noting that “climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.” The report goes on to describe the vast geopolitical impacts of climate change anticipated by the intelligence community, including sea level rise, increasing temperatures, food and water scarcity, the proliferation of disease vectors, and the risk of mass migration by vulnerable populations to escape these impacts. These risks led DOD to declare that “while climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world.” The department’s leaders recognized that the United States’ existing role in responding to extreme weather events, delivering humanitarian assistance, and preserving national security would be made all the more difficult by climate change.
Since DOD’s public call to action, the department has worked to better integrate climate risk across its operations and long-term planning. DOD has also pursued climate mitigation and adaptation measures in accordance with a broad set of Executive Branch initiatives designed to move the entire U.S. government towards a lower carbon footprint, more efficient resource consumption, and improved resilience against extreme weather events. The institutionalization of climate adaptation and mitigation measures has transformed how the department does business and has resulted in a more sustainable and agile military. Responsibilities for these measures have been distributed across the Pentagon for development and implementation and have been outlined in numerous memos, reports, and other official guidance. In addition, each of the five service branches has established its own clean energy goals to be achieved through physical infrastructure upgrades, as well as training to adjust behaviors and risk perception among its personnel.
This issue brief will cover the ways the U.S. military defines climate change risks and the subsequent challenges DOD will likely face going forward. Specific examples of global and domestic impacts and consequences are also explored. In addition, a high-level accounting of DOD and Congressional actions on climate and security is provided.