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Senate committee asks for a new report on national security and climate change risks, Defense Department responds politely but firmly: do your homework!

Climate Change

It’s Déjà Vu All Over Again, Defense Dept. Issues Yet Another Climate Change Warning

Senate committee asks for a new report on national security and climate change risks, Defense Department responds politely but firmly: do your homework!

Did the US Department of Defense just blow off the Senate Appropriations Committee on the topic of climate change? To answer our own question, yes. At least, that’s what we think. In response to the Senate Committee’s directive to identify the national security risks of climate change earlier this year, DoD has just released a slim document totaling all of 14 pages, which cost all of $22,000 to produce.

Right back at you, Senate Appropriations Committee!

US Department of Defense new climate change report

The New Department of Defense Climate Change Report

The new report was released late last month under the title “National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and Changing Climate.”

Coincidentally or not, it was issued as the Obama Administration prepares for final rule making on the Environmental Protection Agency’s incendiary (to some — ALEC, much?)  Clean Power Plan, which aims at weaning the US away from fossil power generation, so keep that in mind.

Specifically, the report responds to the Senate Appropriations Committee relating to the proposed 2015 Department of Defense Appropriations Bill (HR 4870, for those of you keeping score at home).

DoD was directed to fulfill these three tasks:

1. Identify the most serious and likely climate – related security risks for each Combatant Command .

2. Identify ways Combatant Commands integrate risk mitigation in their planning processes, including…Humanitarian disaster relief; Security cooperation; Building partner capacity; and Sharing best practices for mitigation of installation vulnerabilities.

3. Describe resources required for an effective response and the timeline of resources needs.

That sounds like volumes of work to us, so what’s with the 14-page Spark Notes?

Actually, make that 12 pages, because the first two are just the title page and a summary of the request.

Ask A Stupid Question…

Since the new DoD climate change report is brief, we do encourage you to go ahead and give it a look-see. For those of you on the go, here are some of the main points.

DoD makes it clear, up front, that the Senate is getting Spark Notes this time around because the issue of national security and climate change has already been addressed, numerous times, by higher-ups in the Armed Services (Navy Secretary Ray Maybus is a standout example), and DoD has already developed a roadmap for climate change adaptation.

Skipping over the first two pages (the title page and a summary of the request), DoD cuts straight to the mustard, in the very first sentence:

DoD recognizes the reality of climate change and the significant risk it pose s to U.S. interests globally. The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water.

That sure sounds like a polite way of saying go back and read your homework assignment from last February, right?

For good measure, the new climate change report references the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) in the very next line, and it adopts a Climate Change Remedial Class 101 tone when it explains that it is already deep into action on the QDR:

A changing climate increase s the risk of instability and conflict overseas, and has implications for DoD on operations, personnel, installations, and the stability, development, and human security of other nations. This is why DoD released the Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap (CCAR) in October 2014.

Nobody read the CCAR either, right?

DoD could just stop right there on page three — after all, the agency also addressed climate change in its 2010 QDR, and got a “don’t care” from Congress in response.

You could also go back to 2009, when Pentagon officials testified before the House Appropriations  Defense Subcommittee  and made a sharp case for reducing petroleum dependency in the military. They even put a price tag on it: $400 per gallon to ship fuel into war zones, and priceless lives lost guarding fuel convoys.

Leave Me Alone, I’m Busy (Working On Climate Change Adaptation)

Congress has been throwing up roadblocks to alternative fuel development by the military and ignoring the warnings (at least on one side of the aisle, okay so Republicans), so really all DoD has to do in the new climate change report is to point to all of its old reports that have already been ignored, but out of politeness the agency did fill up 12 pages with some interesting information, so let’s take a look.

The information is organized around the Geographic Combatant Commands, which have been busy doing this:

Geographic Combatant Commands (GCCs) incorporate the risks posed by current and projected climate variations in to their planning, resource requirements, and operational considerations. GCCs , often at the request of partner nations, cooperate with other nations on adaptation practices, resilience , environmental considerations, and risk reduction.

And this:

Resources for assessing and responding to the impacts of climate change are provided within existing DoD missions, funds, and capabilities. Activities associated with climate resiliency planning in GCCs are subsumed under existing risk management processes.

The report lists the significant risks faced by each GCC, which should be old news to our elected representatives by now, and it concludes by reminding the Committee that this really is old news:

…We are already observing the impacts of climate change in shocks and stressors to vulnerable nations and communities, including in the United States, and in the Arctic, Middle East, Africa, Asia, and South America. Case studies have demonstrated measurable impacts on areas vulnerable to the impacts of climate change and in specific cases significant interaction between conflict dynamics and sensitivity to climate changes…even resilient, well – developed countries are subject to the effects of climate change in significant and consequential ways.

So there you have it. The US Department of Defense has just issued yet another warning on climate change. Hopefully this time around the US Senate will not respond with a snowball fight. Fingers crossed!

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Photo via US Navy (President Obama at Andrews Air Force Base with “Green Hornet” biofuel jet, by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class Clifford L.H. Davis).

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Written By

Tina specializes in military and corporate sustainability, advanced technology, emerging materials, biofuels, and water and wastewater issues. Views expressed are her own. Follow her on Twitter @TinaMCasey and Google+.


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