The Pentagon made the case Wednesday that the locations in the world most prone to instability and bloodshed also are the ones where climate change has the greatest impact, and laid out details about how top regional commanders are preparing for it.
A report required by Congress covers a variety of climate issues affecting the military, noting how rising seas and severe weather can impact missions. But it also provides little-known details about how each geographic combatant command — a COCOM, in military-speak — is addressing climate change in the part of the world where they oversee operations.
“The National Security Strategy, issued in February 2015, is clear that climate change is an urgent and growing threat to our national security, contributing to increased natural disasters, refugee flows, and conflicts over basic resources such as food and water,” the report said. “These impacts are already occurring, and the scope, scale, and intensity of these impacts are projected to increase over time.”
In one specific example, U.S. European Command is preparing for more tourism and commerce in the Northern Sea Route, which runs through the Arctic along Russia’s northern coast, the report said. The document specifically mentions a planned trip next year by the cruise ship Crystal Serenity through the notorious Northwest Passage, which runs from the Pacific to the Atlantic oceans and has previously trapped ships in ice. Northern Command, which includes Canada and the United States, has similar concerns about increased traffic in the area, and the risks that will ensue.
“Future Arctic offshore drilling will also create a resource demand and the need for emergency response, risk reduction measures, and environmental protections,” the report said.
In the Middle East, U.S. Central Command has factored water scarcity into its campaign plans for the future. It also considers climate change when planning for humanitarian assistance, disaster relief and training alongside local militaries based in the region, the report said.
In Africa, standing plans for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief will be expanded to encourage countries on the continent to prepare better for climate change.
“U.S. Africa Command (USAFRICOM) assesses humanitarian crisis as the most likely climate-related risk within its [area of responsibility], foremost due to the impact that devastating events like drought and disease could have on vulnerable populations and on state stability in places already struggling with fragility and conflict,” the report said.
In the Pacific, the U.S. military is developing a visual display tool that will overlay historical data on disasters with information on climates, populations, geography and resource scarcity to help with planning. It also is concerned about the resilience of Hawaii and its installations there, and is looking for ways to improve it, the report said.
Commanders in U.S. Southern Command (SOUTHCOM), which includes Central and South America and the Caribbean, said the military does not conduct separate climate-change planning, but conducts gap analysis with friendly countries in the region to help them prepare for the future. It also has requested funding from the Pentagon’s Overseas Humanitarian, Disaster Assistance, and Civic Aid budget to preposition equipment under SOUTHCOM’s control when a severe storm threats Haiti.