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DOD Report Confirms Climate Change A Threat To National Security


By E. Lynn Grayson


This week the Pentagon released Department of Defense 2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap confirming that climate change poses an immediate threat to national security. The Department of Defense (DOD) views climate change as a "threat multiplier" because it has the potential to exacerbate many of today's existing challenges from infectious disease to terrorism. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict.

According to the report, the Strategic Sustainability Performance Plan articulates the DOD's sustainability vision to maintain the ability to operate into the future without decline in the mission or the supporting natural and man-made systems. DOD has established three broad adaptation goals:

1. Goal 1: Identify and assess the effects of climate change on DOD

2. Goal 2: Integrate climate change considerations across DOD and manage associated risks

3. Goal 3: Collaborate with internal and external stakeholders on climate change challenges

For DOD, these goals are supported by four lines of effort: plans and operations; training and testing; built and natural infrastructure; and, acquisition and supply chain.

What is important to note with DOD's issuance of this new report is the shifting view of climate change and how it might impact national security. Traditionally, DOD's focus was on ensuring that U.S. military installations were adapting to climate change impacts such as coastal naval bases and concerns over rising sea levels. This new report makes clear that DOD is considering climate change in a more strategic manner in terms of how such impacts may cause greater problems in regions where conflicts already exist including for example political unrest related to drought or food shortages.

Many commentators believe that the increased priority by DOD on climate change may signal the Administration's plans for more cooperation and support of international climate change negotiations on a proposed new United Nations climate change agreement to be addressed next year in Paris. Others have been critical of the Administration's interest in climate change issues when they believe there are many more important challenges that DOD should focus on like how to manage ISIS.