Guest essay by Eric Worrall
Even Democrats are complaining about the lack of detail.
The Pentagon calls climate change a national security threat. Trump isn’t listening.
Democrats seem unhappy with the new Defense Department report, though.
By Alex Ward Jan 18, 2019, 1:50pm EST
The Pentagon released a short report this week detailing how a changing climate is a national security threat and makes the military’s job around the world harder. The problem, though, is that the pithy document will likely fall on deaf ears anyway.
There’s more, but it’s mostly anecdotal and not all of it deals with climate change directly. “The report is surprisingly clear though that there is no current or desired separate program to track or manage climate impacts,” retired Rear Adm. David Titley, one of the country’s top experts on climate security, wrote on Friday. “The report is disappointing.”
Some Democrats agree, saying the report skimped on some crucial details and must be more robust.
“While this climate report acknowledges that nearly all the military installations it studied are vulnerable to major climate change impacts,” House Armed Services Committee Chair Adam Smith (D-WA) said in a Friday statement, “it fails to even minimally discuss a mitigation plan to address the vulnerabilities.”
Jack Reed (D-RI), the top Democrat on the Senate Armed Services Committee, took aim at Trump and the Pentagon in a different statement: “President Trump’s climate change denial must not adversely impact the security environment where our troops live, work, and serve,” he said. “But under current leadership, the Department is treating climate change as a back burner issue.”
That seems to be true: The Trump administration has yet to place serious emphasis on safeguarding complexes even as top defense officials said last year that Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida — which suffered massive damage from Hurricane Michael — was “uninhabitable” in the storm’s aftermath.
The report runs to 17 pages, with 5 pages of appendices. The following is a sample of the kind of “information” provided by the report;
Drought can negatively impact U.S. military installations in various ways, particularly in the Southwest. For example, dry conditions from drought impact water supply in areas dependent on surface water. Additionally, droughts dry out vegetation, increasing wildfire potential/severity. Specific to military readiness, droughts can have broad implications for base infrastructure, impair testing activities, and along with increased temperature, can increase the number of black flag day prohibitions for testing and training. Drought can contribute to heat- related illnesses, including heat exhaustion and heat stroke, outlined by the U.S. Army Public Health Center. Energy consumption may increase to provide additional cooling for facilities.
Several DoD sites in the DC area (including Joint Base Anacostia Bolling, Joint Base Andrews, U.S. Naval Observatory/Naval Support Facility, and Washington Navy Yard) periodically experienced drought conditions –extreme in 2002 and severe from 2002 through 2018. In addition, Naval Air Station Key West experienced drought in 2015 and 2011, ranging from extreme to severe, respectively. These examples highlight that drought conditions may occur in places not typically perceived as drought regions.
Drought conditions have caused significant reduction in soil moisture at several Air Force bases resulting in deep or wide cracks in the soil, at times leading to ruptured utility lines and cracked road surfaces.
Imagine you are a policy maker responsible for addressing the issues raised in the report. What measures are required to fix the problems at Naval Air Station Key West? How much additional water do they need to address their current problems and projected future problems? How much would it cost to provide water security to Naval Air Station Key West?
$329,000 is an outrageous sum to charge taxpayers for a document which lacks even the most basic details which a policy maker would require to formulate a policy response.
President Trump should demand a better effort on behalf of US taxpayers from whoever wrote this report. For once the Democrats might support him.