Sunday, October 19, 2014

The 'threat multiplier’ of climate change

John D. Banusiewicz at Department of Defense News, Defense Media Activity: Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel [outlined] the effects of climate change on the world’s security environment and [unveiled] the Defense Department’s plan to meet that challenge in a speech this afternoon at the Conference of Defense Ministers of the Americas in Arequipa, Peru.

In a statement, Hagel noted that thinking ahead and planning for a wide range of contingencies is the Defense Department’s responsibili
ty in providing security for the nation, and that climate change is a trend that will affect national security.

“Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict,” he said. “They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.”

The U.S. defense strategy refers to climate change as a “threat multiplier,” the secretary said, because it has the potential to exacerbate many challenges, including infectious disease and terrorism. “We are already beginning to see some of these impacts,” he added.

A changing climate will have real impacts on the military and the way it executes its missions, Hagel said, noting that the military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities and to provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters.

“Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities,” he said. “Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions.”

Weather always has affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way the military executes operations may be altered or constrained, the secretary said. Uncertainty is no excuse for delaying action

David Gleason shot this picture of the Pentagon in 2008, Wikimedia Commons via Flickr, under the Creative Commons 2.0 license

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