Pentagon Plans for a Hotter Planet

Defense proposal calls for adapting but not for cutting its own fossil fuel use
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Oct 8, 2021 3:40 PM CDT
Pentagon Plans for Operating on a Hotter, Drier Planet
US forces conduct a desert mission.   (Getty/zabelin)

(Newser) – A new Pentagon plan calls for incorporating the realities of a hotter, harsher Earth at every level in the US military, from making worsening climate extremes a mandatory part of strategic planning to training troops how to secure their own water supplies and treat heat injury. The Pentagon—whose jets, aircraft carriers, truck convoys, bases, and office buildings cumulatively burn more oil than most countries—was among the federal agencies that President Biden ordered to overhaul their climate-resilience plans when he took office in January, the AP reports. About 20 agencies released their plans Thursday, per the White House.

"These are essential steps, not just to meet a requirement, but to defend the nation under all conditions,'' Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote in a letter accompanying the Pentagon's plan. It follows decades of US military assessments that climate change is a threat to national security, given increased risks of conflict over water and other scarcer resources, threats to military installations and supply chains, and added risks to troops. The US military is the single largest institutional consumer of oil in the world, making it a major contributor to the worsening climate. But the Pentagon plan focuses on adapting to climate change, not on cutting its own significant output of climate-wrecking fossil fuel pollution.

The plan addressed current and future issues such as:

  • Extreme weather. Risks include roadways collapsing under convoys as permafrost melts, crucial equipment failing in heat or cold, and troops in dry regions overseas competing with local populations for dwindling water supplies, possibly creating conflict.
  • Training and readiness. Worsening wildfires in the West, fiercer hurricanes on the coasts, and increasing heat already are causing problems. The plan gives Hurricane Michael in 2018 as an example. It cost $3 billion to rebuilt Tyndall Air Force Base in Florida. In addition, the Pentagon's top simulator and classroom training for F-22s stealth fighter jets was out of commission for months.
  • Climate knowledge and understanding. Accurate climate data and considerations will have to be incorporated into strategic, operational, and tactical decision-making. That includes continued training of senior officers and others in what the report calls climate literacy. "Failure to properly integrate a climate change understanding of related risks may significantly increase the Department's adaptation and operating costs over time ... imperil the supply chain, and/or result in degraded and outdated department capabilities," the plan warns.
(Read more climate change stories.)

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