Assessing the risks
A baseline survey assessing the vulnerability of the US’s military bases, installations and facilities – numbering over 7,000 in total – is underway, in a bid to identify the effects of climate change on military sites.
The conclusions will help to inform the way climate change is integrated into operations, planning and training so that associated risks can be managed.
‘Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning. Our armed forces must prepare for a future with a wide spectrum of possible threats, weighing risks and probabilities to ensure that we will continue to keep our country secure.
‘By taking a proactive, flexible approach to assessment, analysis, and adaptation, the Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate, minimise its impacts on our missions and continue to protect our national security.’
Chuck Hagel, US Secretary of Defense
Speaking at a news conference in Santiago, Chile, after a meeting with government leaders there, Hagel underlined the risk climate change presents to the security environment, noting that potential threats may rise along with sea levels.
‘When there is any natural disaster event that occurs, there always is some element of a security risk – law and order, individuals attempting to take advantage of those catastrophes, adjusting to shifts in security requirements.’
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel
Nations will compete for natural resources
The secretary cited the Arctic as an example. ‘We see an Arctic that is melting, meaning that most likely a new sea lane will emerge’, he said. ‘We know that there are significant minerals and natural deposits of oil and natural gas there. That means that nations will compete for those natural resources.’
That hasn’t been an issue before, Hagel said. ‘You couldn’t get up there and get anything out of there’, he added. ‘We have to manage through what those conditions and new realities are going to bring in the way of potential threats.’
Hagel, who is on a six-day, three-nation trip to South America, said he will discuss the relationship between climate change and security in more detail during the Conference of the Defense Ministers of the Americas, which begins tomorrow in Arequipa, Peru.
Roadmap to resilience
Last November, Obama issued an executive order on climate preparedness directing federal agencies to modernise programmes to ‘support climate-resilient investments, manage lands and waters for climate change preparedness and resilience and plan for climate-change-related risk, among other things’.
This isn’t the first time Hegel, a Republican, has voiced his concerns about the risks and impacts of climate change – but he faces opposition in Congress from climate-change denying members of his own party.