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DOD Using Climate Assessment Tool to Understand Impacts of Climate Change

April 22, 2021 | BY David Vergun , DOD News

The Defense Department has identified climate change as a critical national security threat and has taken steps to address vulnerabilities at its installations from climate change such as flooding, forest fires and drought.

Marines train in the desert.
Military Maneuver
Marines with Alpha Company, Infantry Training Battalion, School of Infantry - West, buddy rush as they engage notional targets during a fire and maneuver range as part of the eleventh week of the Infantry Marine Course on Marine Corps Base Camp Pendleton, Calif., April 8, 2021.
Photo By: Marine Corps Sgt. Jeremy Laboy
VIRIN: 210408-M-CK339-0807

There are some 5,000 DOD locations worldwide, each facing unique climate change risk factors. To better understand and manage these risks, the department has adopted and expanded a climate change tool designed by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to project the effects of climate change on almost 1,400 locations, according to Marissa McInnis, climate change program director and co-lead for the Climate Action Team.

The DOD Climate Assessment Tool, or DCAT, was released department-wide in September by the Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition and Sustainment. 

The DCAT enables personnel at all levels of the department — from installation planners to leadership — to understand each location's exposure to climate-related hazards using historical data and future climate projections, McInnis said.

A soldier swings forward from a rope. Another soldier looks on in the background.
Army Rangers
Army Rangers train at Fort Benning, Ga., March 3, 2021.
Photo By: Army Spc. Jillian Hix
VIRIN: 210302-A-VL209-009
A helicopter takes off.
Sea Dragon
An MH-53E Sea Dragon, assigned to Helicopter Mine Countermeasures Squadron 15, takes off from Norfolk, Va., April 6, 2021.
Photo By: Navy Petty Officer 3rd Class Sam Jenkins
VIRIN: 210401-N-CJ362-1081C

Members of the Climate Action Team, composed of engineers, planners, scientists and researchers from the Corps of Engineers, are now applying the DCAT and developing standardized approaches to support climate-informed decision-making, she said. 

An announcement was made at the White House Climate Leaders Summit on Earth Day today that the DCAT will be used to complete climate exposure assessments on all major U.S. installations and major overseas installations.

Kate White, a climate change expert currently detailed from USACE to co-lead the Climate Action Team and other DOD climate change efforts, said that DCAT uses outputs from global climate models and other authoritative data as the basis for the climate projections used in the tool and its data visualizations. "The consistent data sets allow comparisons and prioritization of follow-on actions."

A tank and boom float in a body of water.
Storage Tank
As a precautionary measure, a boom is deployed at one of the bulk fuel storage tanks at Offutt Air Force Base, Neb., May 7, 2019, after flooding occurred there in March 2019.
Photo By: William Farrow, Army
VIRIN: 190507-A-QY194-001C

By providing installation managers with knowledge about the range of future climate conditions, the DCAT helps them determine major climate hazards and whether an additional in-depth analysis is necessary. Taking adequate climate adaptation steps, such as constructing seawalls or moving facilities to higher areas, requires both the screening-level insight the DCAT provides and local knowledge and assessment undertaken by personnel at each installation, White said.