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The Pentagon Prepares for Climate Change
By Michael Schweibinz

Earlier this month, the Department of Defense published its “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.” The groundbreaking report signifies a dramatic shift in belief and action regarding climate change. Having typically been dismissed as a future risk, the Pentagon is now “integrating climate change threats into all plans, operations, and training across the entire agency.”

The report emphasizes four primary climate change phenomenon:

  • Rising global temperatures.
  • Changing precipitation patterns.
  • More extreme or frequent weather events.
  • Rising sea levels and associated storm surges.

Skeptics like Senator James M. Inhofe have questioned the defense department’s role in combating climate change, claiming that “there are other legitimate threats in the world.” After all, climate change and the military may not seem very interrelated.

However, rising sea levels are likely to pose a major threat to naval bases in coastal regions. Further, changing precipitation patterns and rising temperatures will trigger a variety of ancillary consequences, including, potentially…

  • Increasing instability in some countries.
  • Spread of disease.
  • Mass migrations.
  • Extremists taking advantage of these disruptions.

These factors make climate change a "threat multiplier because it can exacerbate challenges from infectious disease to terrorism.” Like any other operation, the military is planning how it can prevent and react to the effects of climate change.

Beyond the inevitable outcomes, there are almost certainly going to be unforeseen consequences. “Climate change and water shortages may have triggered the drought that caused farmers to relocate to Syrian cities and triggered situations where youth were more susceptible to joining extremist groups, said Marcus D. King, an expert on climate change and international affairs at George Washington University. The Islamic State, often referred to as ISIS, has seized scarce water resources to enhance its power and influence.”

Occurrences like these will only increase as climate change intensifies. As a result, the pentagon has deemed preparation today as the only viable option.


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Posted: November 5, 2014