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Published on February 1st, 2010 | by Tina Casey


Pentagon to Include Climate Change in Major New Defense Review

February 1st, 2010 by  

In the new Quadrennial Defense Review, the U.S. Department of Defense recognizes climate change as a factor in global conflict.Reporter Roxana Tiron of The Hill picked this up over the weekend: the U.S. Department of Defense (aka the Pentagon) will include an analysis of climate change in the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR), a comprehensive strategic analysis which is set for release today. [social_buttons] The branches of the U.S. armed forces have been busy acting on climate change for years, most notably the U.S. Army (and within that, the Army Corps of Engineers), the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Air Force.  Tiron reports that today’s QDR will mark the first time that the Pentagon itself recognizes climate change as a factor in global instability and U.S. national security.  The QDR was delivered to Congress last Friday and a draft is posted on InsideDefense.com, a subscriber website.

Climate Change and the Quadrennial Defense Review

The Quadrennial Defense Review is a legislatively mandated  review of long term strategy and priorities, based on an analysis of current and future threats.   According to Tiron’s report, the QDR will call for climate change assessments at all Department of Defense installations to prepare for the impact of rising sea levels, severe heat, and other conditions that could affect operational readiness at bases, and training grounds and other facilities.

The U.S. Armed Forces and Climate Change

If you’ve been following defense news for the past few years, the QDR’s inclusion of climate change will come as no surprise.  The U.S. military has been installing solar energy and taking other climate change related sustainability measures hand over fist.  The recognition of climate change is implicit in the Army’s Strategy for the Environment (yes, they have one), and explicit in the U.S. Navy Task Force on Climate Change (yes, they have that, too) which bluntly states that “rapidly diminishing sea ice, melting glaciers, rising sea levels, [and] increased storm severity” will impact Navy missions, including humanitarian relief.

Climate Change and U.S. Military Veterans

In addressing climate change, the QDR would vindicate numerous military veterans and veterans’ organizations that have advocated for climate action in recent years, including Operation Free and VoteVets.  Last spring a dozen retired senior officers called on the Pentagon to address climate change as an “urgent” national security threat.  At Senate Foreign Relations Committee hearings last summer, retired Navy Vice Admiral Lee F. Gunn stated that “climate change poses a clear and present danger.”

The Department of Defense and Climate Change

Last fall the Pentagon disclosed that it costs about $400 per gallon to get conventional fuel to remote bases in Afghanistan.  Dropping that hint was no accident, it was a serious kick in the butt for the U.S. to get off fossil fuels and get cracking on sustainable energy and other climate change related actions.  The Department of Defense is, if anything, the expert on climate change.  Climate research by the Department of Defense contributes a significant portion of information to the Climate Change Science Program, a subset of the U.S. Global Change Research Program (GCRP is a creation of the U.S. Congress).  DoD-sponsored research includes a long list of satellite observations, oceanographic information gathered by the Navy, polar research, and other related programs, so for those who still can’t wrap their heads around the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, maybe the U.S. military can make a convincing case on the need for action. Image: The Pentagon by gregweat98 on flickr.com. 
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About the Author

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. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.

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