Mega-Droughts, Super-Storms, and Civil Unrest: Buckling Down for the Impacts of Climate Change

Mega-droughts, floods, and super-storms are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to climate-change-driven events, and the US Defense Department fears that the United States’ infrastructure isn’t prepared to take the damage. Preparation for, rather than prevention of, disasters may soon be the name of the game for the United States.

For example, the 2014 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) highlights significant threats posed by climate change. In the realm of domestic defense, severe and sometimes unpredictable weather patterns add a new complexity to global operations, from issues with simple training programs to global risks. Rising temperatures mean increased drought issues; this leads to greater water scarcity and rising food costs. This is especially the case in impoverished countries, and countries with unstable governments tend to be breeding grounds for terrorist activity and violence.

Resource competition is only one of many threats to national security when it comes to climate change. California is currently struggling with an extreme drought situation. Governor Jerry Brown has called for a state of emergency as California’s reservoirs show terribly low water levels. The Central Valley of California produces food for millions of Americans across the country, and the intense drought could mean food scarcity and rising costs for the entire nation within the coming years. Civil unrest, says the DOD, is an imminent risk if the drought continues beyond 2014. Economic losses for this upcoming season will amount to an estimated $5 billion dollars.

The US hopes to come up with creative solutions to climate-related problems. The Department of Homeland Security has increasingly attempted to address the importance of being prepared for extreme weather events, and will soon require a massive investment in infrastructure in order to better prepare for climate impacts. Bridges, roads, levees, and other aspects of infrastructure will need to be evaluated, repaired, and replaced as they face more intense storms. The US hopes to better prepare for winter weather as well, noting heavy snowfall and winter storms across the country as justification for improved infrastructure.

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