Climate change is a risk to national security, the Pentagon says

According to the Pentagon, climate change poses a threat to national security
Click to enlarge the image toggle caption Brendan Smialowski/AFP via Getty Images Brendan Smialowski/AFP Via Getty Images

According to the Department of Defense, climate change poses a threat to U.S. security in concrete ways.

The Pentagon reported last week that climate change is increasing the risks to the U.S.

Recent extreme weather events have caused billions of dollars in damage to U.S. military facilities, such as Tyndall Air Force Base (Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune) and Tyndall Air Force Base (Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune). The military also has bases in Guam and Marshall Islands that are susceptible to rising seas. The Pentagon suggests that China could be able take advantage of the U.S. vulnerability.

Kathleen Hicks, Deputy Secretary of Defense, tells NPR Congress should pay attention to the Biden administration's efforts to create a clean energy plan that Senator Joe Manchin will approve. An earlier attempt was thwarted by the West Virginia Democrat.

"We must have the rest the government with us. Morning Edition is told by her that it's impossible to do this just at DOD.

These interview highlights were edited for clarity.

Interview Highlights

Here are some examples of how climate change has affected the U.S. military

Climate change is increasing the frequency and number of missions we execute here at DOD. Let's take a look at firefighting. Firefighting has seen an increase in fire seasons due to severe drought. The National Guard bureau chief has begun to talk about the fire season becoming a fire year. In fact, the U.S. National Guard has gone from 14,000 personnel days to 176,000 person-days in firefighting in five years.

The increasing openness to the Arctic region can also be considered. China, Russia, and many other countries are now up there in the Arctic creating new geopolitical spaces that weren't previously available for competition in an area we have to monitor. For search and rescue, as well as for commercial fleets. This increases our mission space.

Climate migration: The challenges

The United States is directly affected by climate migration. The traditional ways of sustaining livelihoods are being challenged at the border between the Northern Triangle countries (El Salvador, Guatemala and Honduras) in our south. This has also been seen in other parts of the world, such as Africa.

You can change your focus to the Pacific region, where the problem isn't so much drought but sea level rise. Some Pacific island countries are facing an existential crisis and may end up underwater. Think about Bangladesh. Also, consider parts of India and Indonesia. These are highly populated countries with significant climate migration potential.

What military installations and personnel are affected

We are looking into the impacts of climate change on our facilities. I want to stress that drought is also a factor around military installations out West. Sea level rise mainly affects us on the East Coast, and overseas.

The effect is that we can't operate in the areas we have invested. What mitigations can we put in place to address these issues? Frequent fires, power loss through frequent storms such as the one in Texas that caused the deep freeze. It's expensive and takes us away. These forces aren't focused on their mission when they are in these locations. They aren't flying during their training days or going out to sea to get ready to go. They are moving in and out of storm areas. These are all ways we are both unable to accomplish our main mission and they cost us money to fix.

What the military is doing in preparation

DoD does one thing exceptionally well. We plan. And we do it very carefully. Climate needs to be part of our thinking about the future and other contingencies that could arise. ... We will be thinking about how to train and equip our force for a climate change environment. We will ensure that our infrastructure is resilient. We will ensure that we have resilient supply chains and are being innovative.

The audio interview was produced by Milton Guevara, Kelley Dickens and edited by Kelley Dickens. James Doubek produced the interview for the internet.