‘Climate change is going to cost us’: How the US military is preparing for harsher environments
WASHINGTON — The aftermath of Hurricane Florence dumping 36 inches of rain on North Carolina in 2018 saw three Marine Corps installations flooded, costing taxpayers $3.6 billion in damage. A few weeks later, Hurricane Michael ripped through Tyndall Air Force Base, causing about $4.7 billion in damage at the Florida facility.
Then last year, leaders evacuated Travis Air Force Base in northern California due to nearby raging wildfires.
And today, Arctic Air Force bases hosting radar early warning systems and communication equipment are suffering coastal erosion, which is damaging seawalls, runways and infrastructure. Thawing permafrost and erosion threatens bases in the Arctic, damaging infrastructure. NASA tracks the extent of Arctic sea ice and estimates a declining 13.1 percent rate of change per decade.
“Climate change is going to cost us in resources and readiness,” Joe Bryan, senior climate adviser at the Pentagon, said during a July webinar. “The reality is that it already is.”
Now, after years of the Trump administration sidestepping the issue, the Biden administration has asked for $617 million in fiscal 2022 for climate change preparation, adaptation and mitigation. In addition, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, having already identified climate change as a top priority, launched a Climate Working Group in response to a January executive order signed by President Joe Biden. Climate change is no longer a problem for future defense leaders; it is an immediate challenge.
According to NASA, climate change is driven by increased levels of greenhouse gases causing global temperatures to rise, the ocean to warm, polar ice to melt and sea levels to rise. Since the late 1800s, Earth’s average surface temperature has risen 2.12 degrees Fahrenheit, and the last seven years have been the warmest. The year 2020 is tied with 2016 for the warmest year on record.
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