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DOD Supports Administration's Climate Change Ambitions

Oct. 29, 2021 | BY OFFICE OF THE ASSISTANT SECRETARY OF DEFENSE FOR STRATEGY, PLANS AND CAPABILITIES

The Defense Department is actively working with the whole-of-government to tackle the climate crisis, as underscored by two recently released documents that highlight the impact of climate change on national security.

An airman wearing a headset looks at several screens.
Collecting Data
Air Force 1st Lt. Amaryllis Cotto, aerial reconnaissance weather officer for the 53rd Weather Reconnaissance Squadron at Keesler Air Force Base, Miss., looks at atmospheric data collected during a flight into Hurricane Ida, Aug. 27, 2021. The data collected helps forecasters better predict the path of a tropical system.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Kristen Pittman
VIRIN: 210827-F-KV687-2226

The DOD Climate Risk Analysis identifies how global and cross-cutting consequences of climate change are likely to increase demands on the force. While the first DOD report focused on the strategic implications of climate change, DOD's risk analysis provides a starting point for a shared understanding and lays out a path for integrating these considerations across strategic documents.

To ensure that DOD can meet these growing demands under changing climate conditions, the department also released its Climate Adaptation Plan. Building on more than a decade of work, the plan provides a roadmap to ensure DOD maintains the ability to operate under changing climate conditions while protecting systems essential to the country's success.

A helicopter scoops water from a lake, as smoke rises from behind.
Containing Fire
A South Carolina Army National Guard CH-47 Chinook helicopter supports the South Carolina Forestry Commission to contain a fire near Table Rock, S.C. Droughts -- exacerbated by climate change -- cause fire dangers throughout much of the United States.
Photo By: Army Staff Sgt. Roberto Di Giovine
VIRIN: 161120-Z-II459-021

With the DCRA and the CAP as the foundation, DOD is integrating climate change considerations across strategic guidance and planning documents, including the National Defense Strategy, which will be released in 2022. DOD is also working with allies and partners to prevent, mitigate, account for, and respond to defense and security risks associated with climate change.

At bilateral and multilateral meetings, defense officials regularly discuss climate change. For example, in Undersecretary of Defense for Policy Colin Kahl’s recent meeting with a top Brazilian official, the leaders acknowledged the importance of integrating climate change and its impacts into future defense dialogues. DOD also worked closely with NATO allies to develop a Climate Change and Security Agenda and Action Plan last summer.

Piles of rubble surround a motor pool.
Structural Damage
Scientists warn that climate change is making hurricanes stronger. In 2018, Hurricane Michael caused significant structural damage to the majority of Tyndall Air Force Base, Fla., and surrounding areas after going ashore as a Category 4 storm.
Photo By: Air Force Staff Sgt. Ryan Conroy
VIRIN: 181011-F-BH566-1091

Last April, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III hosted a panel focused on climate security at the World Leaders Summit on Climate. The event included Avril Haines, director of national intelligence; Linda Thomas-Greenfield, U.S. ambassador to the United Nations; defense officials from Iraq, Japan, Kenya, Spain and the United Kingdom; and the Philippines’ finance minister. At this event, Austin highlighted that climate change is an existential threat and "No nation can find lasting security without addressing the climate crisis."