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Official Describes Impacts of Climate Change, Standup of Working Group

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Rising sea levels, more severe storms, increased wildfire intensity and extent, heat, drought and other negative effects; these impacts of climate change will affect people, equipment and property worldwide, and that means they affect the Defense Department, at home and abroad.

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Orange Wildfire
A firefighter works during the Creek Fire in the Cascadel Woods area of Madera County, Calif., Aug. 27, 2020.
Photo By: Josh Edelson, Marine Corps
VIRIN: 200827-M-TR039-416A
A man in a uniform operates a rolling compactor as it travels down a dirt road. Two other men in uniform stand to the side of the road.
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Army Sgt. Shenna Taylor, a heavy equipment operator with the 1782nd Engineer Company, South Carolina National Guard, drives a rolling compactor during local road repairs in Ruby, S.C., after Hurricane Florence, Sept. 30, 2018.
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Joe Bryan, the DOD senior climate advisor, said that these impacts of climate change affect training and installations and are one of the driving factors for humanitarian crises globally. Climate change also factors into geopolitical and economic issues, he said. With the ice in the Arctic Ocean melting, for example, China and Russia are looking to exploit the area both economically and militarily, and the department must develop a sound plan for how it responds. The National Defense Strategy recognizes that the U.S. is under a variety of threats, including climate change, he said.

In addition to department-wide efforts to make installations more resilient to climate threats, Bryan discussed ways the Pentagon is mitigating damage from climate change by reducing greenhouse gas emissions.

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Joe Bryan
Joe Bryan, a Defense Department special climate advisor, discusses ways that the Pentagon is mitigating damage from climate change.
Photo By: Lisa A. Ferdinando, DOD
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One piece of good news is that, over the last decade, a number of commercial technologies have emerged. For example, energy efficiency technology and renewable energy systems have decreased dependence on the electric grid and have helped cut down on greenhouse gases that are driving climate change, he said. These technologies have also enabled installations to be more resilient to blackouts.

It's really an exciting time in which we're seeing our defense requirements and our mission requirements actually align exceptionally well with some climate-friendly solutions.
Joe Bryan, Senior Climate Advisor, Defense Department

Another example is the increased use of electric vehicles and alternative fuel vehicles, he said.

It is important that lithium-ion batteries and other critical components like those used in electric vehicles are manufactured domestically or in collaboration with allies and partners to ensure supply chain reliability, particularly in the face of threats from China, he noted.


To respond to these and many other interconnected challenges, the secretary of defense directed, on March 9, the standup of a climate working group.

The mission of the group, which Bryan chairs, is to ensure the department is being forward leaning given the climate change response requirements set by the secretary and the administration.

"It's really an exciting time in which we're seeing our defense requirements and our mission requirements align exceptionally well with some climate-friendly solutions. And I think the commercial sector is moving there faster than we can possibly imagine, and we have an opportunity to take advantage of that and improve our own capability and competitiveness," Bryan said.

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