October 30, 2014

How Might Climate Change Impact the Military?

The U.S. military is actively planning for the effects of climate change. During an interview with National Public Radio (NPR) about a new Pentagon report on climate change as a national security threat, retired U.S. Navy Admiral David Titley explained that climate change can cause or worsen crises such as food or water shortages or energy instability, which may require the military to respond.

The Pentagon’s report specifically refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” because it may aggravate existing global challenges, such as food instability, infectious disease, and terrorism. And it cites increasing global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, rising sea levels, and more extreme weather events as climate change problems that will impact national security.  

As examples, Admiral Titley (1) cited droughts in several of the world’s large wheat growing regions and a rapid increase in the cost of basic foodstuff as a contributing factor to the Arab Spring and (2) said changes to the Arctic region also require the military to rethink their operations. According to Admiral Titley, there has been a fivefold increase in the number of ships traveling the Bering Strait between Russia and the United States. Oil and gas production and increased tourism in the Arctic Ocean may require a military presence similar to other oceans. Some of the things the military must consider when working in the Artic include whether the military has (1) the proper types of ships and other equipment and (2) sailors trained to work in the region, particularly under the sea and ice conditions.