2017-07-16 10:30:02 UTC
In Landmark Move, GOP Congress Calls Climate Change `Direct Threat' to Security
Extreme weather and rising seas threaten bases from Virginia to
Guam. For the first time, a Republican House has voted to recognize
July 14, 2017
Kwajalein, a tiny atoll in the Marshall Islands, is home to a
state-of-the-art radar installation called Space Fence. The
US govt awarded Lockheed Martin a nearly $1 bn contract
in 2014 to build the new system, meant to help protect US satellites
and spacecraft from space debris when it becomes operational next year.
There's just one problem. Kwajalein is a mere 10 feet above sea level,
putting Space Fence at high risk for frequent flooding as sea levels
rise over the coming decades.
It's one of many US military installations threatened by climate
change around the world. One study last year found that rising oceans
threaten 128 military installations on the coasts, including naval
facilities worth around $100 bn.
The Pentagon has been aware for years of the looming danger
represented by climate change. But partisan infighting in Congress,
budget sequestration, and the toxic nature of the climate debate have
hamstrung the Defense Dept. from taking steps to protect key assets -
or even identifying which facilities face the most serious threats.
This week, though, the Pentagon may have gotten a boost - from the
unlikeliest of places. The Republican-controlled House retained an
amendment to the 2018 defense funding bill affirming that "climate
change is a direct threat to the national security of the United
States." It orders defense officials to draw up a report laying out
which facilities would be most affected.
"This is a reflection that some Republicans at least are waking up to
this reality and voting to affirm the work that DoD is doing," said
Andrew Holland, director of studies and senior fellow for energy and
climate at the nonpartisan policy organization American Security Project.
Defense authorizations have included similar language before: In 2008,
then-Sens. John Warner (R-Va.) and Hillary Clinton (D-N.Y.) included a
similar amendment. But that was a Democratic-controlled Congress; this
time, some 45 Republicans voted for the climate-change language, and
lawmakers from both sides shot down an attempt to strike the focus on
"I think it's maybe the beginning of a turning point in Congress," Holland said.
For more than a decade, the Pentagon has been clear-eyed about the
risks posed by climate change. Rising sea levels threaten coastal
installations, while floods, famines, and droughts promise waves of
instability and conflict across big chunks of the planet. Even in the
climate-change denying Trump administration, Defense Secretary James
Mattis has reiterated what is by now the Pentagon's standard line.
``I agree that the effects of a changing climate - such as increased
maritime access to the Arctic, rising sea levels, desertification,
among others - impact our security situation,'' Mattis expressed in
testimony prior to his confirmation.
But climate change is deeply polarizing in Congress, where many
Republicans still believe it is a "hoax," or not caused by human
activities. That makes the issue "toxic" to Pentagon staffers who need
to squeeze money out of Congress, said retired Rear Admiral David
Titley, former naval chief oceanographer and now a professor at
Pennsylvania State University. Officers tend to "run in the other
direction when anyone says climate change," afraid to appear before
Congress to argue for more resources for fear that what funding they
do have will be cut.
Years of sequestration have squeezed even the fundamentals of military
readiness. And while the Obama administration talked up the security
threats from climate change, additional funding never came.
"I don't think the Dept of Defense today could give you some
sort of ranking [of facilities] that are most under threat," said
Titley. "Especially if you consider the issues - sea level rise, water
stress, impact from wildfires - and crosscut that with the military
value of that particular base."
Rising seas, extreme weather, and water stress won't just affect
domestic military infrastructure. America's ability to project power
around the world - and particularly in the Middle East - is likely to
be weakened if no action is taken. In a 2012 report, the American
Security Project ranked the top 5 US military facilities most at
risk from climate change - Norfolk, Guam, Eglin in Florida, Bahrain,
and Diego Garcia, a shown on the map below:
The latter is the most threatened high-value base. Located on a
British atoll, the US base on Diego Garcia is a major hub for
operations in the Middle East, allowing large bombers to deploy
without being based in Saudi Arabia or Qatar and giving expeditionary
access to the Indian Ocean, Persian Gulf, and Red Sea. But due to its
location on a low-lying atoll, it's the most threatened of all.
"It legitimately could disappear in a certain amount of years," said Holland.
Closer to home, the world's biggest naval base is an even starker
illustration of what lies in store. The Hampton Roads region of
Virginia, headquarters of the Atlantic fleet, is already buffeted by
increasingly extreme weather and frequent flooding. The sea there has
already risen by more than a foot in the past 100 years, and the base
currently floods about 10 times a year. It's going to get much worse -
the Union of Concerned Scientists estimates that Norfolk may flood 280
times a year by 2100.
Zeke Hausfather @hausfath 14 Jul 2017 23:39Z
The folks at Snopes fact checked recent claims that adjustments to the data
greatly increase warming:
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