Our Military is Well Ahead of Congress on Climate Change

U.S. Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit unload food and supplies to Pakistanis in support of the flood relief effort in Pano Aqil, Pakistan, Sept. 11, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jason Bushong/Released)
U.S. Marines from the 26th Marine Expeditionary Unit unload food and supplies to Pakistanis in support of the flood relief effort in Pano Aqil, Pakistan, Sept. 11, 2010. (U.S. Army photo by Sgt. Jason Bushong/Released)

Tonight 350 Pensacola brought Brigadier General John Adams, Ret. to describe how the military is involved in preparation for the consequences of climate change. Among them are sea level rise, food shortages, migration of large groups of people from countries destabilized by climate change impacts, and larger and more powerful storms. See this link to The Center for Climate and Security.

General Adams reviewed changes in the Arctic that will eventually keep it open (free of ice) for global trade and military maneuvers for as much as six months out of the year. Arctic Patrolling is now another security responsibility of the U.S. Military.

Where troops train and in major ports that harbor military ships, adaptations must be made now because the infrastructure take years to develop. We are likely to see relocation of military bases–which will also impact communities that rely on the economic income from their presence. He mentioned Norfolk bases as likely impacted. Pensacola Naval Air Station (PNAS) will not be impacted because Hurricane Ivan destroyed coastal infrastructure which the Navy decided not to replace. PNAS is the home of Naval Aviation, the main activity that will not be affected by sea level. However, it is subject to stronger than normal storms as is our whole coastal area.

General Adams explained that the drought in California and other areas in the Southwest is making it impossible to conduct troop training (major fires and the risk of setting off fires from troop fire) and these conditions are likely to drive base relocation.

General Adams began by describing climate change as a global security threat. Adams is the CEO of a global security consulting firm, Guardian Six. They have an impressive team assembled to analyze security risks for clients. He speaks from experience and current projects his team is conducting around the world to assess security risks.

As General Adams focused his comments country by country, targeting regions most vulnerable to climate change impacts, it was obvious that national security will be greatly affected, if for no other reason than troops deployed for disaster relief will take the focus away from national security activities. While only 17% of the world’s land base will be subject to sea level rise world wide, 50% of the world’s population lives in those regions.

The military looks at climate change from a risk management perspective, Adams explained. We plan for the worst case scenario, expect the most likely outcomes, and then hope for a better future. This is a cautious approach, but proactive, accepting the facts – the science – to plan for any future contingency. 

A participant asked the General how the military manages to act proactively when half of our congressional representatives do not even accept there is such a thing as climate change. He answered military leaders just go about the business they are charged to implement. We strive to speak truth to power, but in the end the military has to protect the nation. That is our mission.

A special concern of mine is local, national, and global food security. Hunger and poverty drive insurrection, wars, migrations. We know this. I do not believe most Americans are paying attention to the fraying food system in the U.S. General Adams explained that over the next six years, it is projected that million’s of acres of California’s farming operations will come to an end due to the long-term drought and heat.

The NOAA satellite system known as G.R.A.C.E. – gravity measurements of the world’s aquifers by changes in the mass of water in aquifers that underlay the world’s vast agricultural areas – shows the shrinking mass of available fresh water for food production. The Ogallala Aquifer is one of them. It underlies the U.S. Great Plains under 8 states. It has been in a state of overdraft. Its recharge is from rain and snow melt.Drought and overdraft could see this major source of water depleted in just a few years.

We would all do well to act as our military and start planning for the worst case scenario in order to ensure good outcomes down the road. I will continue working with my own local, state and federal representatives to move in that direction.

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