The PJ Tatler

Hagel Unveils Pentagon Global Warming Strategy, Warns Climate Change Is 'Threat Multiplier'

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel announced a new Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap at the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Peru today, saying the Pentagon has “nearly completed a baseline survey to assess the vulnerability” due to global warming of more than 7,000 bases, installations, and other facilities.

The 20-page document details three “broad adaptation goals”: “Identify and assess the effects of climate change on the Deparment,” “integrate climate change considerations across the Department and manage associated risks,” and “collaborate with internal and external stakeholders on climate change challenges.”

“Initial analysis indicates that four primary climate change phenomena are likely to affect the Department’s activities: Rising global temperature, changing precipitation pattern, increasing frequency or intensity of extreme weather events, rising sea levels and associated storm surge,” the report states. “…The changing climate will affect operating environments and may aggravate existing or trigger new risks to U.S. interests.”

The report complies with a 2013 executive order in which President Obama ordered agencies to prepare the U.S. “for the impacts of climate change.”

“Climate change is a ‘threat multiplier’…because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we already confront today from infectious disease to armed insurgencies and to produce new challenges in the future,” Hagel said in his remarks, which touched on organized crime and the illegal migration of minors yet focused on global warming.

“The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere. Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds for instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline, and trigger waves of mass migration,” he said. “We have already seen these events unfold in other regions of the world, and there are worrying signs that climate change will create serious risks to stability in our own hemisphere. Two of the worst droughts in the Americas have occurred in the past ten years…droughts that used to occur once a century.”

“In the Caribbean, sea level rise may claim 1,200 square miles of coastal land in the next 50 years, and some islands may have to be completely evacuated. According to some estimates, rising temperatures could melt entire glaciers in the Andes, which could have cascading economic and security consequences.”

Hagel argued that the climate trends “will clearly have implications for our militaries.”

“A higher tempo and intensity of natural disasters could demand more support for our civil authorities, and more humanitarian assistance and relief. Our coastal installations could be vulnerable to rising shorelines and flooding, and extreme weather could impair our training ranges, supply chains, and critical equipment,” he said. “Our militaries’ readiness could be tested, and our capabilities could be stressed.”

The secretary said the Pentagon “takes these risks very seriously,” and new assessments will result in the integration of “climate change considerations into our planning, operations, and training.”

The roadmap follows Hagel’s Arctic strategy released last year.

“To address the risks posed by climate change, we will work with partner nations, bilaterally and through organizations such as the Inter-American Defense Board and the CDMA. We will share our findings, our tools for assessment, and our plans for resiliency. We will also seek to learn from partner nations’ experiences as well,” Hagel said, noting that the U.S. has already completed joint military assessments on climate change with Chile, Colombia, El Salvador, and Trinidad and Tobago.

“I recognize that our militaries play different roles and have different responsibilities in each of our nations. I also recognize that climate change will have different impacts in different parts of the hemisphere. But there are many opportunities to work together.”

Hagel encouraged defense ministers to take part in the UN climate change conference this December in Lima, Peru.

“We must be clear-eyed about the security threats presented by climate change, and we must be proactive in addressing them,” he said.