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Late last week, the Pentagon released the unclassified summary version of America’s new National Defense Strategy. For the first time since 2008, it makes no mention of climate change.
The administration didn’t cite climate change in its National Security Strategy release in December, either. After that, a bipartisan group of 106 lawmakers begged Trump to reconsider, but at this point, there is no reason to think he or his appointees plan to listen. At least formally, they plan to ignore climate change in security and military policy.
This neglect has prompted a great deal of agita in the climate community, where the nexus of climate change and national security is intensely studied. It would be strategically disastrous for the US military to ignore climate change. Practically speaking, it cannot.
James Stavridis, a retired Navy admiral now serving as dean of the Fletcher School of Law and Diplomacy at Tufts University, succinctly lays out the reasons the military can’t ignore climate change in this piece. Scarcity of water and other resources will drive dislocation and conflict, he writes. Coastal Naval bases are in danger of being inundated by rising seas; the Arctic is melting and opening new areas of geopolitical conflict; the rising cost of climate impacts will squeeze the military budget; and responding to severe weather events will reduce military readiness.
The military is taking climate change seriously because it has to. Unlike its Commander in Chief, it is not involved in a reality show — it has to deal with actual reality.