Pentagon climate plan prepares military for extreme conditions

The Pentagon on Thursday began its biggest effort ever to prepare the military for the effects of climate change with the release of a 32-page strategy.

“Climate change is an existential threat to our nation’s security, and the Department of Defense must act swiftly and boldly to take on this challenge and prepare for damage that cannot be avoided,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement released alongside the strategy, known as the Climate Adaptation Plan.

The Pentagon’s strategy aims to transition the military into an agency that can handle and operate within ever increasing hurricanes, wildfires, heat, drought and floods “that can trigger crises and instability around the world.”

The new plan will help the Pentagon better consider what effects climate change will have on its operations, training, installations, planning and business processes when making decisions.

This is crucial, Austin said, as the effects of climate change are already costing the Pentagon billions of dollars and will “continue to amplify operational demands on the force, degrade installations and infrastructure, increase health risks to our service members, and could require modifications to existing and planned equipment.”

The Defense Department was one of 23 agencies to release climate-adaptation plans. Others included the departments of Homeland Security, Transportation and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

In the Pentagon’s report, officials offer stark examples of how climate change is already affecting its work and what threats it expects in the near future.

In the past several years, wildfires have forced evacuations at bases in the western United States, while hurricanes on the East Coast and flooding in the Midwest “have inflicted billions of dollars of damage on facilities that are home to key warfighting abilities,” the report says.

What’s more, climate issues such as extreme heat can affect troops safety, with at least 17 troops killed by heat exposure during training exercises at U.S. military bases since 2008. 

“We must take on these challenges as a team—from every corner of the Pentagon, on each of our installations and bases, across the federal government, and alongside our partners and allies,” Austin said.

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