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Climate Change Is a Military Problem for the US

Concrete plans are wanted to handle each looming hazard from sea-level rise to a gap Arctic.

The US army has its palms full at the second with a vicious struggle in Ukraine and US-China tensions over points from human rights to sovereignty over the South China Sea. But it can not delay taking motion to handle local weather change, the most persistent strategic menace we face.

As a younger naval officer, I took for granted the many lovely dwelling ports at which our fleet was berthed. Now, rising sea ranges are threatening lots of them. Both Norfolk, Virginia – the largest naval base in the world – and Mayport, Florida, stand to see important lack of waterfront berths by mid-century. Climate change places our strategic base community in danger.

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It additionally raises calls for on scarce naval resources, because it brings extra unpredictable, extremely damaging storms. As a naval commander, I’ve participated in lots of humanitarian aid efforts in response to pure disasters, together with large hurricanes in the US Southeast and Caribbean, wildfires in the American West, tsunamis in the Pacific and storms in Central America. These disasters are solely turning into extra frequent.

At the similar time, local weather change poses a new nationwide safety problem by increasing ocean geography. The Arctic (or the High North as our Canadian associates extra eloquently name it) has been largely frozen over most of the year all through recorded historical past. Now, the ice is breaking apart, transport lanes are opening for a lot of the year, and wealthy hydrocarbon deposits have gotten accessible. Thus, the Artic is turning into a broader venue for great-power competitors between Russia and NATO nations, together with the US, Canada, Denmark, Iceland and Norway, and shortly maybe Sweden and Finland.

Climate change additionally heightens tensions between the developed world and growing nations in Latin America, Africa and South Asia by creating drought circumstances in already fragile agrarian societies.

“Climate change is one of the most destabilizing forces of our time, exacerbating other national security concerns and posing serious readiness challenges,” stated Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro. Both the Navy and the Army have just lately launched well-thought-out white papers on the topic, laying out the issues forward.

What’s most wanted, nevertheless, are concrete concepts to handle them.

First and foremost, the Defense Department should scale back its personal carbon footprint. It must shift from hydrocarbon fuels to renewable power sources for day-to-day transportation operations; harden its amenities, particularly coastal ones, to face up to violent storms, erosion and rising sea ranges; and enhance its use of recycled merchandise whereas lowering use of plastics. As the largest international group in the world, these steps alone would have a measurable influence in reducing emissions.

A second pressing step is to use the Defense Department’s appreciable analysis and growth functionality to local weather challenges. To handle its rising Arctic obligations, for instance, the Pentagon should develop hardened seagoing vessels (cruisers and destroyers, for instance) able to surveillance and fight operations in the North; prepare floor and air forces for the harsh circumstances of the Arctic shoreline; contemplate a important enhance in icebreaker ships, a few of them nuclear-powered; and arrange logistics programs applicable for the area.

To face not solely the opening Arctic but additionally rising sea ranges, violent climate and drought-induced humanitarian crises, the DOD wants a devoted environmental assume tank to generate concepts for issues comparable to new army nuclear-energy programs, storm-hardened supplies, pop-up housing and simply transportable meals shares. All of those must be designed to be moved globally through army air and naval functionality.

The US nationwide safety institution should additionally domesticate higher worldwide cooperation on local weather challenges. The US Coast Guard is particularly nicely positioned to work together with different navies on fisheries enforcement, controlling air pollution and dumping actions, and plastics elimination.

The Defense Department also needs to work with different US companies, together with the Department of Homeland Security (which homes the Coast Guard) on responding to nationwide and worldwide pure disasters. The Departments of State and Commerce and the Environmental Protection Agency all have sturdy environmental packages that might be synchronized with the DOD efforts. A joint interagency process pressure exists for counter-narcotics. Why not create one to work collectively on climate-related challenges?

As governments and personal companies put extra power and a focus into local weather safety, the US nationwide safety institution should additionally face what could also be the menace of the century.

James Stavridis is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. A retired U.S. Navy admiral, former supreme allied commander of NATO, and dean emeritus of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, he’s vice chairman of worldwide affairs at the Carlyle Group. He is the creator most just lately of ‘To Risk It All: Nine Conflicts and the Crucible of Decision.’

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