Pentagon climate crisis plan: war-fighting in hotter, harsher world

News Desk
Sunday, Oct 10, 2021

WASHINGTON: A new Pentagon plan calls for incorporating the realities of a hotter, harsher Earth at every level in the US military, from making worsening climate extremes a mandatory part of strategic planning to training troops how to secure their own water supplies and treat heat injury.

The Pentagon — whose jets, aircraft carriers, truck convoys, bases and office buildings cumulatively burn more oil than most countries — was among the federal agencies that President Joe Biden ordered to overhaul their climate-resilience plans when he took office in January. About 20 agencies were releasing those plans Thursday.

“These are essential steps, not just to meet a requirement, but to defend the nation under all conditions, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in a letter accompanying the Pentagon’s climate plan.

It follows decades of US military assessments that climate change is a threat to US national security, given increased risks of conflict over water and other scarcer resources, threats to US military installations and supply chains, and added risks to troops.

The US military is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world, and as such a key contributor to the worsening climate globally. But the Pentagon plan focuses on adapting to climate change, not on cutting its own significant output of climate-wrecking fossil fuel pollution.

It sketches out in businesslike terms the kind of risks US forces face in the grim world ahead: Roadways collapsing under convoys as permafrost melts. Crucial equipment failing in extreme heat or cold. US troops in dry regions overseas competing with local populations for dwindling water supplies, creating “friction or even conflict.”

Already, worsening wildfires in the US West, fiercer hurricanes on the coasts and increasing heat in some areas are interrupting US military training and readiness.

The new Department of Defense plan cites the example of Hurricane Michael in 2018, which hit Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. Beyond the $3 billion it cost to rebuild, the storm knocked out the country’s top simulator and classroom training for F-22s stealth fighter jets for months. It was just one of several hurricanes and floods that have affected operations as US bases in recent years.