Pentagon warns of threat to bases from climate change

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The Pentagon is shown in this Dec. 5, 2017, file photo.

A Pentagon report reveals that more than two-thirds of operationally critical military installations are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years, including repeated flooding and wildfires.

The 22-page report released this week, titled the “Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense,” took a look at 79 “mission assurance priority installations” from the Army, Air Force and Navy that are based in the U.S.

Of the 79 installations, 53 are at risk for flooding now, and seven additional locations are at risk in two decades. 

{mosads}For wildfires, 36 installations are at risk currently, a number that is bumped up to 43 over 20 years. In addition, more than half are at risk from drought, and six are prone to desertification. 

“The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to Department of Defense missions, operational plans, and installations,” the report states.

The congressionally mandated document was delivered to lawmakers on Thursday but was not officially announced or released to the public. Numerous environmental organizations released the report publicly on Friday.

The report follows the November release of the National Climate Assessment, which was created by 13 federal agencies and found that climate change is expected to quickly interrupt the way people live day-to-day, with current efforts to stop it deemed insufficient.

President Trump, however, has continued to cast doubt on the scientific consensus that climate change is caused by human activity and, at the time of the assessment’s release, said, “I don’t believe it.”

The Defense Department report, however, notes several examples of how military bases are already running into issues caused by climate change.

“Joint Base Langley-Eustis, Virginia, has experienced 14 inches in sea level rise since 1930,” with flooding at the base becoming “more frequent and severe,” the report states.

Navy Base Coronado in California, meanwhile, “experiences isolated and flash flooding during tropical storm events,” with the main installation reporting “worsening sea level rise and storm surge impacts that include access limitations and other logistic related impairments.”

Around Washington, D.C., several sites including Joint Base Andrews in Maryland, “periodically experienced drought conditions — extreme in 2002 and severe from 2002 through 2018.”

Such conditions have resulted in “deep or wide cracks in the soil, at times leading to ruptured utility lines and cracked road surfaces.”

Following the report’s release, Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Jack Reed (D-R.I.) bashed the document as “inadequate, incomplete” and “partisan.”

Reed pointed out that the report did not include a list of the ten most vulnerable installations from each military service, as required of the document in the fiscal 2018 National Defense Authorization Act. The report also was supposed to include a cost estimate to alleviate climate change risks at installations. 

“Unfortunately, under the leadership of the Acting Secretary, the Department transmitted a report that failed to adequately answer the litany of reporting elements required by law and instead produced an alphabetical list of 79 military installations. … The report reads like an introductory primer and carries about as much value as a phonebook,” Reed said in a statement.

“President Trump’s climate change denial must not adversely impact the security environment where our troops live, work, and serve. … But under current leadership, the Department is treating climate change as a back burner issue.”

In a separate statement, House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) said the report “demonstrates a continued unwillingness to seriously recognize and address the threat that climate change poses to our national security and military readiness.” 

The report “fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities” and “failed to estimate the future costs associated with ensuring these installations remain viable. That information was required by law,” Smith said.

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