The U.S. Department of Defense has been among the most aggressive leaders on climate change action under the Obama Administration, and it has just stepped it up to the next level. Last week, DoD released the new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, its blueprint for addressing the effects of climate change in a national security context. That includes global impacts such as geopolitical consequences, conflict acceleration and competition for food, water and other life-sustaining resources, as well as increasing demands on DoD resources for humanitarian relief.
Given that DoD does not exist in a vacuum, you can expect the agency’s plans to ripple out and affect other sectors, potentially including the global fossil fuel marketplace.
For a bit of background, in 2009 President Obama issued Executive Order 13514, which directed all federal agencies to evaluate their climate change risks and vulnerabilities. It also directed agencies to start developing plans for dealing with those impacts.
DoD incorporated those findings in its 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review, which is a big deal because that document is the mechanism for translating strategy into action. In other words, the QDR results in real-life, potentially dramatic shifts in the way DoD forces and resources are allocated.
So, when the 2010 QDR asserted that climate change has become a significant national security threat, that wasn’t just DoD yelling into the wind, that was DoD putting the wheels of action in motion.
The Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (CCAR)
Fast-forward to 2013, and now we have the next step, an actual blueprint for action in the form of CCAR.
The direct impacts that CCAR outlines include operational hardships and reduced training opportunities due to increased heat and extreme weather events, reduced access by ground vehicles (due to flooding or melting permafrost, for example), infrastructure degradation leading to increased costs for maintaining roads, runways and utilities, increased energy costs and risks to facilities from wildfires, coastal flooding and other exreme events.
CCAR inventories many more indirect impacts, too. All this is by way of hammering home the main point, which is to acknowledge the reality of the situation and deal with it.
The Department of Defense, in Defense of Science
CCAR basically describes how DoD decision-making will pivot around climate science and related fields, by fully integrating “climate change considerations into its extant policies, planning, practices and programs.”
The first step is to designate an advisory committee that will ensure a direct, nimble exchange of climate related information between DoD and other relevant agencies and authorities.
This reality-based approach is clearly stated in the advisory committee’s first set of goals, which include stressing “the importance of the science-policy interface.”
The emphasis on science continues throughout CCAR, particularly in regard to ensuring that the “best available science” is available to DoD decision-makers.
For the record, let’s also note that DoD hasn’t exactly standing still while working on its blueprint for action.
Since 2009, DoD has been transitioning to sustainable energy on practically innumerable fronts. The initiatives include solar power (both stationary and portable solar power), biofuels, alternative fuel vehicles, smart microgrids and EV-to-grid systems.
Many of these initiatives can easily apply to civilian use and some projects, like the new SPIDERS microgrid, are being developed specifically with widespread adoption by the civilian sector in mind.
DoD and the Keystone XL Pipeline
CCAR also outlines the need for international as well as domestic partnerships, so it has some interesting implications for the fossil fuel industry, including the export market.
In describing how DoD will continue to collaborate with the State Department (and foreign militaries) on climate assessment, CCAR also describes climate change as this:
“…a unique opportunity to work collaboratively in multilateral forums, promoting a balanced approach that will improve human and environmental security in the region.”
That appears to make the case that DoD’s climate-related concerns will interact with State Department policymaking in new and important ways.
In particular, CCAR seems to put another roadblock in front of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline, which would bring tar sands oil from fields in Canada down through the U.S. midwest, to the Gulf Coast for export.
The pipeline requires State Department approval because it crosses the Canadian border, and it has been under a cloud of intense criticism because it would add a heavy dose of “dirty” fuel to the global energy mix.
The potential involvement of DoD is bad news for pipeline proponents, who already had a pretty bad time of it last week.
Tina Casey specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Tina’s articles are reposted frequently on Reuters, Scientific American, and many other sites. You can also follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.