Tensions and Temperatures are Rising: How the DOD is Anticipating Climate Change

Preparation for the potential implications of climate change can be seen across most sectors throughout the U.S. Stakeholders in government, energy, and transportation among others are analyzing how their operations will be affected by not only changing climate patterns, but also by corresponding legislation that could be passed to stifle climate change’s adverse environmental impacts.

The Department of Defense (DOD) is no different and recently released a report titled National Security Implications of Climate-Related Risks and a Changing Climate. The goal of this analysis was “to identify the most serious and likely climate-related security risks for each Combatant Command, the ways in which the Combatant Commands are integrating mitigation of these risks into their planning processes, and a description of the resources required for an effective response.”

While the report does delve into the generalities of climate change and the appropriate responses, the bulk of the report focuses on the risks associated with each individual U.S. Combatant Command. These risks and are summarized below:

  • USAFRICOM (African Command): As climate change continues, USAFRICOM is expected to develop a stronger tie to humanitarian assistance and disaster relief organizations, such as USAID. The impact of climate change is also expected to alter the dynamic of “building partner capacity efforts” with regards to security cooperation.
  • USCENTCOM (Central Command): Climate change is expected to perpetuate issues such as water scarcity in the Middle East. Rising sea levels among other resulting environmental impacts will need to be assessed on an individual basis at USCENTCOM installations.
  • USEUCOM (European Command) and USNORTHCOM (Northern Command): USEUCOM and USNORTHCOM’s main challenges relating to climate change emanate from the Arctic. Accessibility to the Arctic is expected to increase as temperatures rise and ice melts, leading to higher demand for tourism and resources (mainly drilling). Both commands will need to meet this demand by increasing their capacity for emergency response.
  • USPACOM (Pacific Command): The risk of natural disasters is expect to increase throughout eastern and southeast Asia as climate change persists. USPACOM is not only working to increase its capacity for emergency response, but is also developing risk assessment tools based on the characteristics of each country in the region.
  • USSOUTHCOM (Southern Command): USSOUTHCOM officials are working with South American countries to assess local vulnerabilities to natural disasters. Currently USSOUTHCOM is awaiting additional  resources, funding in particular, to further research the impacts of climate change and to respond accordingly.

The report concludes by acknowledging that climate change will not only affect “fragile and conflict-affected states, [that] even resilient, well-developed countries are subject to the effects of climate change in significant and consequential ways.” The report continues by stipulating that all of the Combatant Commands and the DOD as a whole incorporate climate change into their broader strategic planning “as a present security threat, not strictly a long-term risk.”

For more resources on Climate Change, Earthquakes, Hurricanes, or the Military’s Role in Homeland Security, visit the Homeland Security Digital Library (some resources may require HSDL login).


Article formerly posted at https://www.hsdl.org/blog/newpost/view/em-tensions-and-temperatures-are-rising-em-how-the-dod-is-anticipating-climate-change