Climate change adaptation reshaping U.S. Military

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The U.S. Department of Defense has released a comprehemsive Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap that details the Department's plan for managing the effects of climate change on its operations and infrastructure in both the short and long term.

Long a leader on measures to address climate change, the U.S. military's  Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap is a blueprint for addressing climate related impacts in a national security context.  See  GLOBE-Net article 'Renewable Energy Major Priority for Military'.

The Defense Department's  strategic focus on climate change adaptation began in 2010 with the publication of the Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) by the U.S. Secretary of Defense.

That Review  recognized that climate change impacts will reshape the military's operating environment, roles, and missions and that adjustments to facilities, infrastructure, and training activities were needed.

These impacts were also seen to have geopolitical consequences such as conflict acceleration, competition for food, water and other life-sustaining resources.

As well, they would increase demands on limited military resources for humanitarian or disaster relief efforts, such as happened recently with Superstorm Sandy.

Climate Change Impacts are here now

Climate-related effects already are being observed at many military installations in every region of the United States. These physical changes include:

  • Rising temperature and sea level
  • Increases in both heavy downpours and the extent of drought
  • Thawing permafrost
  • Shifts in growing seasons
  • Lengthening ice-free seasons in the oceans and on lakes and rivers
  • Earlier snowmelt
  • Altered river and stream flows

The direction, degree, and rate of these changes will differ by region, as will the impacts to the military's infrastructure and capabilities. 

The Roadmap provides an analysis of potential mission vulnerabilities, and identifies ongoing work throughout the Department to better understand and address climate change risks and opportunities.

This work is focused on the following:

Vulnerability and Impact Assessment -  Quantifying climate change impacts requires understanding how physical drivers, such as sea level rise and extreme weather events, will change.

Adaptation Science -  Adaptation to climate change involves reconfiguring DoD's natural and built infrastructure or increasing its resilience. Research is focused on improving the understanding of how to manage species and ecosystems that will be affected by climate change.

Land Use and Carbon Management -  Land-use practices affect the rates of carbon cycling and storage within the soil and vegetation. 

Wide Ranging Research Underway

Research is on going to anticipate the effects of sea-level rise and storm surge on coastal installations; improve observation, mapping, and prediction capabilities and identify science and technology needs in the Arctic; investigate influences of permafrost melting in Alaska on DoD operations; determine the impacts of ecosystem changes to natural resources in the southwestern United States; and predict the effects of sea-level rise, precipitation, and storm patterns on island infrastructure in the Pacific.

To learn more about the U.S.  military's climate change efforts, visit here.

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