Military Operations

lCimate change and responses to it may affect the U.S. military in several ways. The Department of Defense (DOD) was directed in 2009 by the U.S. Congress to include the potential impacts of climate change in their 2010 Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR). The QDR is a legislatively mandated review of DOD strategy and priorities that sets the long-term course for DOD by assessing the threats and challenges the nation faces and rebalancing the Department's strategies, capabilities, and forces to address today's conflicts and tomorrow's threats. The QDR recognized climate change as one of many factors that has the potential to impact all facets of the DOD mission:

The rising demand for resources, rapid urbanization of littoral regions, the effects of climate change, the emergence of new strains of disease, and profound cultural and demographic tensions in several regions are just some of the trends whose complex interplay may spark or exacerbate future conflicts (DOD, 2010).

The QDR focused on four specific issues where reform is imperative: security assistance, defense acquisition, the defense industrial base, and energy security and climate change. It stated the need for "incorporating geostrategic and operational energy considerations into force planning, requirements development, and acquisition processes."

Climate change may affect military assets and operations directly, for example through physical stresses on military systems and personnel, severe weather constraints on operations due to increased frequency and intensity of storms and floods, or increased uncertainty about the effects of Arctic ice and ice floes on navigation safety both on and below the ocean surface. U.S. military bases and associated infrastructure both inside the United States and overseas, particularly in coastal areas, will face risks from continuing sea level rise, extreme weather events, and interactions with other environmental stresses. For example, low-lying military bases in South Carolina, Guam, and Diego Garcia are particularly vulnerable to sea level rise. Changes in energy supply systems, including both fuel and electricity, as a result of either climate change or policies to limit greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions, would also have major impacts on military readiness and operations since the military is a major energy consumer and many military bases get their electricity from the national grid. In 2009, the Chief of Naval Operations directed the Navy's Task Force on Climate Change to assess the Navy's preparedness to respond to emerging requirements and to develop a science-based timeline for future Navy actions regarding climate change.

Sea level rise, reductions in sea ice, and changes in precipitation patterns may also affect key navigation routes of military as well as commercial importance, such as the Panama and Suez canals. Summer melting of Arctic sea ice will also make the Arctic Ocean more navigable, albeit with considerable seasonal ice floes, and the U.S. Coast Guard currently has just three commissioned icebreakers, only two of which are active (Borgerson, 2008; NRC, 2007g). Congress has asked the military to assess its preparedness for climate change, and the assessment process is now under way (e.g., Dabelko, 2009); the military has also requested input from a number of outside organizations, including the National Research Council (NRC), to gauge its preparedness for climate change and provide advice on prudent adaptation strategies. The Navy in particular, as directed by the Chief of Naval Operations, chartered the NRC's Naval Studies Board to conduct a study to explore the potential climate change impacts on naval forces (NRC, 2010e).

In general, there is substantial overlap between military and civilian needs with regard to climate change planning, such as the need for expanded and more interdisciplinary impact and vulnerability assessments and improved observation and modeling capa bilities; hence, expanded collaboration between the defense, intelligence, and climate change research communities may yield benefits to all.

The U.S. military is also a major user of fossil fuels. Consequently, the military could play an important role in reducing the U.S. contribution to global GHG emissions, both through direct reductions and by providing a large market and consumer base for low-emission technology. Since supply chains that provide fuel to military equipment are a point of vulnerability during military operations, there are obvious co-benefits to strategies that increase the energy efficiency of the U.S. military and reduce its reliance on fossil fuels. Research to advance this goal will have many points of overlap with the broader research agenda to reduce emissions from transportation and energy use (see Chapters 13 and 14).

Climate change may also affect the U.S. military through new and changed missions. The military has substantial logistical, engineering, and medical capabilities that have been used to respond to emergencies both in the United States and abroad (for example, the 2005 Indian Ocean tsunami, the 2008 Burma/Myanmar typhoon, and the 2010 Haiti earthquake). Because climate change is expected to increase the severity and possibly the number of storms, floods, droughts, and other climate-related natural disasters in many parts of the world, military preparedness planning and the role of the military in responding to such disasters needs to be considered as part of adaptation planning (NRC, 2010e). Again, much of the research that will be needed to support analysis of military involvement in disaster support overlaps with that needed for impact and vulnerability studies in other sectors.

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