Warren presses top general on climate change

Stefani Reynolds

Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who is running for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination, is pressing the nation’s top general on the threat of climate change.

In an eight-page letter to Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford, Warren asked for unclassified answers by May 13 on how the military is addressing climate change.

“The Department of Defense must do more than simply acknowledge or take piecemeal actions to address climate change while it increasingly threatens and harms our military’s infrastructure and operations,” Warren wrote in the letter dated Tuesday. “Fundamentally, adapting to climate change is a necessary component of maintaining readiness. We must act decisively to prepare for this threat, and our military is as capable as anyone of leading the way.”

Warren, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has asked about climate change to several top officials testifying before the committee: the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs, the chiefs of the Air Force and Army, the secretaries of the Air Force and Navy, and the chiefs of European Command, Transportation Command and Indo-Pacific Command.

The bulk of her eight-page letter is spent recapping the testimony those officials gave.

“Each of these military leaders has acknowledged the threat of climate change to our military’s infrastructure and operations, and that adapting to climate change is a factor in military readiness,” Warren wrote. “None has denied the threat of climate change. This uniformity of opinion among military leaders underscores my concern about the need to act vigorously and expeditiously to mitigate this threat.”

Earlier this year, as part of a requirement in the annual defense policy bill, the Pentagon sent Congress a report that called climate change a “national security issue,” finding more than two-thirds of operationally critical military installations are threatened by the effects of climate change over the next 20 years.

Democrats, though, said the report lacked many elements mandated by the National Defense Authorization Act, including a list of the 10 installations from each military service most vulnerable in the next 20 years, specific mitigation measures to alleviate climate risks at installations and cost estimates for such efforts.

The Pentagon delivered a new report last month to Congress with a list of bases most at risk from climate change threats within the next 20 years. But Democrats were equally unsatisfied, saying the methodology is opaque and a cost assessment is still missing.

Warren’s letter similarly knocked the “several deficiencies” of the Pentagon’s reports.

She also highlighted that the Pentagon has not implemented any of six recommendations made by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) in 2017 to adapt overseas infrastructure to climate change, according to a March update from the agency. 

Warren specifically asked Dunford for a written summary of the Pentagon’s “comprehensive approach to building resilience to climate change risks,” another written summary of the department’s “comprehensive approach to reducing climate change” and an update on the status of the implementation of the GAO recommendations.

Tags Elizabeth Warren

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