It sketches out in businesslike terms the kind of risks U.S. forces face in the grim world ahead: Roadways collapsing under convoys as permafrost melts. Crucial equipment failing in extreme heat or cold. U.S. troops in dry regions overseas competing with local populations for dwindling water supplies, creating “friction or even conflict.”
Already, worsening wildfires in the U.S. West, fiercer hurricanes on the coasts and increasing heat in some areas are interrupting U.S. military training and readiness.
The new Department of Defense plan cites the example of Hurricane Michael in 2018, which hit Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Beyond the $3 billion it cost to rebuild, the storm knocked out the country's top simulator and classroom training for F-22s stealth fighter jets for months. It was just one of several hurricanes and floods that have affected operations as U.S. bases in recent years.
The climate adaptation plan focuses on what it says is the need to incorporate accurate and current climate data and considerations into strategic, operational and tactical decision-making. That includes continued training of senior officers and others in what the report calls climate literacy.
“Failure to properly integrate a climate change understanding of related risks may significantly increase the Department’s adaptation and operating costs over time, ... imperil the supply chain, and/or result in degraded and outdated department capabilities,” the plan warns.
The Department of Defense since 2001 accounts for up to 80% of all U.S. government energy consumption annually, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
A U.S. military focus on more energy-efficient equipment has reduced fossil-fuel use in some ways, and allowed some warships, for instance, to increase range and deployment times, the military says.
But the Pentagon's emphasis remains on its mission of maintaining the military's striking power. Thursday's plan suggests deploying climate-mitigation technology like battery storage and microgrids when that fits the U.S. defense mission. It suggests “exploring” — rather than mandating — steps like asking suppliers to report their own output of fossil-fuel pollution.
This story was first published on Oct. 7, 2021. It was updated on Oct. 8, 2021, to correct that the Department of Defense since 2001 accounts for up to 80% of all U.S. government energy consumption annually, not up to 80% of all U.S. energy consumption annually.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on the conclusion of military operations in Afghanistan and plans for future counterterrorism operations, Tuesday, Sept. 28, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, Pool)
Credit: Patrick Semansky
Credit: Patrick Semansky