Numerous individuals and private businesses have to deal with risks presented by climate change on a regular basis, but the impact of the climate on the federal government cannot be understated, either. According to The Washington Post, a new survey from the Pentagon reveals that the military is particularly vulnerable. The report warns that extreme weather may “[make] our critical facilities unusable or necessitate costly or manpower-intensive workarounds,” a possibility that the Pentagon describes as “unacceptable.”
The report warns that extreme weather may “[make] our critical facilities unusable or necessitate costly or manpower-intensive workarounds,” a possibility that the Pentagon describes as “unacceptable.”
The survey was initially commissioned by the administration of former President Barack Obama in 2014, but the results weren’t ultimately submitted to Congress until this year. The political pressure to make progress on the survey was heightened in 2017, as defense officials became increasingly concerned about climate change-related challenges. Specifically, they worried that flooding may have a negative impact on coastal installations such as Naval Station Norfolk. Drought, wildfire, wind, and non-storm-surge-related flooding were also identified as key problems.
“The idea was to try and figure out … how climate effects were impacting the installations and in what way,” senior Pentagon official John Conger told the Post.
The report detailed a number of specific climate-related problems that have cropped up recently at various military facilities. Among them: The U.S. Naval Academy in Maryland has been subjected to flooding, the Cape Lisburne Long Range Radar Station in Alaska has seen damage to a key sea wall, and the U.S. Air Force Academy in Colorado has been affected by wildfires.
In a few instances, past weather-related problems were severe enough to “cripple the operational mission of a base,” including Langley Air Force Base in Virginia after 2003’s Hurricane Isobel, and Homestead Air Force Base in Florida after Hurricane Andrew in 1992. Scientists agree that climate change will bring more intense and frequent hurricanes, so the phenomenon could have an even more devastating effect on coastal military bases.
It’s unclear exactly what the impact of the Pentagon report will be. Conger told the Post, though, that he hopes the survey will serve as a baseline for future budget assessments. He’s hopeful that the Department of Defense will consider climate-related factors when making future investment decisions.