U.S. military to assess and manage risks of climate change

By Susan Grigsby



Back in the early 80s there was a breeding colony of least terns, near the mouth of the Santa Margarita River, that occasionally hosted the endangered Western snowy plover. During the nesting season, Marines were unable to access the Pacific Ocean in their amphibious vehicles from the sandy beaches of Camp Pendleton that were adjacent to the nesting site. Marine Corps bases in California are scrupulous about protecting the environment that they occupy.

There were buffalo herds that were guaranteed the right-of-way while crossing roads further inland on the base. Their presence near firing ranges was enough for a cease fire to be called until they ambled out of range, as it was feared that they would be too great a temptation for the young Marines who were in training.

In 1991, the Marine Corps base at Twentynine Palms re-introduced Nelson’s bighorn sheep back into the Bullion Mountains, their historic range. The price of a pair of horns was $40,000 on the black market at the time, and the sheep were safer in the middle of an artillery range than they were on the mountain slopes of the nearby Joshua Tree National Monument (now Park). They are still there today, thriving.

The military is capable of doing a competent job of protecting the environment at the same time that it is training its forces for combat. They can multi-task with the best of them. Which is why the uproar on the right over the latest Department of Defense (DoD) directive is rather insulting to our military forces.

Last summer, the Pentagon issued a response to a congressional inquiry on the National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate. In the introduction, the seriousness of climate change is made clear:

DoD recognizes the reality of climate change and the significant risk it poses 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. These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.

And in the conclusion, the security threat represented by climate change is reiterated, and a plan to address the risk is promised.

The Department of Defense sees climate change as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk.

Although DoD and the Combatant Commands cannot prepare for every risk and situation, the Department is beginning to include the implications of a changing climate in its frameworks for managing operational and strategic risks prudently. Moreover, the Department is working with other U.S. Government departments and agencies, partner nations, and many other entities on addressing climate security risks and implications.

In a directive released last month—and much to the dismay of the climate change deniers—the Pentagon appears to have no doubts about the reality of climate change, or the possible risks it may pose. In accordance with the 2013 Executive Order 13653, they have come up with a plan to prepare to deal with it.

Under the terms of DoD directive, Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience, policy is established and responsibility assigned …

…to provide the DoD with the resources necessary to assess and manage risks associated with the impacts of climate change. This involves deliberate preparation, close cooperation, and coordinated planning by the DoD to:

  •   Facilitate federal, State, local, tribal, private sector, and nonprofit sector efforts to improve climate preparedness and resilience, and to implement the 2014 DoD Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.
  •   Help safeguard U.S. economy, infrastructure, environment, and natural resources.
  •   Provide for the continuity of DoD operations, services, and programs.

The military must identify and assess the effects of climate change on their mission. When developing plans and procedures, they must take into account those effects. And they must anticipate and manage any further risks that develop as a result of climate change. As Vice News reports, the directive is only 12 pages long, but it is boring, as only a military document can be boring. However, within those 12 pages, it covers everything from assessing security risks, to providing humanitarian relief, to increases in instability as resources become scarce. They must also take climate change into consideration in the acquisition of weapons systems and the siting of military bases.

“Although this looks very bureaucratic in nature, I would actually give the department full credit for it,” said David Titley, a retired rear admiral who served as the Navy’s top oceanographer. “I think this is one of the more significant steps they’ve done, because they’ve linked that high-level strategy down to a daily to-do list.”

Titley said the new order means the Pentagon “is now thinking seriously” about whether American soldiers, sailors, airmen, or Marines “have the right tools, the right equipment, the right training, and the right risks for a changing environment.”

But of course, protecting our troops and our nation by planning for the issues that climate change will bring is a frivolous act from a very frivolous president, and a threat to America’s security, according to the Investor’s Business Daily:

As recently documented, Obama has at least 22 times declared that climate change is a greater threat than terrorism. He’s so obsessed that he’s willing to damage both our economy and America’s ability to defend itself.

We have a frivolous president who isn’t serious about defense, and our enemies know it.

He probably likes to breathe fresh air, drink clean water, and leave a planet fit for his grandchildren to grow up on. So terribly frivolous.

The New American, in describing how the “Pentagon Shackles Military With Climate-change Directives,” states:

The Pentagon has handed top military personnel sweeping new directives aimed at combating and dealing with climate change. The new commands dictate that climate change be incorporated into literally every aspect of military training and preparedness — from training troops to joint ventures with allies. In addition to military preparedness and the ability to keep the citizens of our country and armed forces personnel safe, the U.S. military must now concern itself with climate change.

Like that is a bad thing.

And because somebody had to say it, according to the Examiner.com:

The good news on climate says folks live longer, live better, survive and thrive in warmth. One would think the military might take advantage of the observed goodness of climate change instead of bogging itself down in paperwork-producing myth.

All of which leads one to wonder what critics would have had to say had they known that the Marine Corps was protecting the Western snowy plover, the American Bison, or the bighorn sheep. And yes, protecting endangered species has probably caused some military plans to have been changed, and it probably cost more money in the short term.

But in spite of this additional responsibility, the Marine Corps was still able to train its service members and achieve its required readiness level. It was able to accomplish all of these tasks because it was ordered to do so. It’s reasonable to suppose that all branches of our military will be able to carry out their orders, as well.



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