Forecasting Our Future: Impacts from climate change could shift the missions of the US armed forces

Forecasting Our Future: Impacts from climate change could shift the missions of the US armed forces

The phrase “national security” carries a broad definition. It involves everything related to the government’s ability to protect U.S. citizens, the national economy and other institutions that ensure stability for the country.The U.S. military is central to maintaining national security both abroad and at home. But the many diverse missions of the armed forces will likely change with Earth’s climate. “Climate change is going to change what missions our armed forces are asked to do. Both in how much and in fact totally new missions,” said Dave Titley, a meteorologist and retired rear admiral of the U.S. Navy.Take extreme events like wildfires as an example. Climate change is making Western wildfires more destructive as they burn faster and hotter with more dry fuels available. The Air National Guard is often called upon to help fight these fires and other troops are deployed to act as first responders on the ground. As these fires happen more frequently, more and more military support is needed, putting a strain on personnel and equipment. That means fewer resources for other military tasks. “You call to California, call to Wyoming, call to Colorado and the governor or the general is going to say ‘we’re kind of out of business here,'” Titley said.During his Naval career, Titley was heavily involved with research efforts in the Arctic with a special focus on global warming and resulting sea ice melt. “I was asked by the head of the Navy at the time in 2009 to take a look at the ice collapse in the Arctic. What did that mean for the Navy?” Titley said.That research was the impetus for the formation of the U.S. Navy Task Force on Climate Change. What it realized was that Arctic sea ice melt would likely open up never-before-seen trade routes at high latitudes. “And the U.S. Navy really has no surface ships that can work effectively up there,” Titley said. Plus, Russia already owns a huge amount of coastline in Arctic waters, making this a future scenario primed for additional conflict. An example of how increasing global temperatures can add pressure in the background of already tense situations. “While climate change rarely directly causes conflict, it makes things worse,” Titley said. “It can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.”Some research has also linked rising ocean temperatures to more frequent tropical storm systems. Landfalling storms within the last couple of decades have done significant damage to military bases which are vital for training and making sure that U.S. troops are ready to conduct their missions effectively. All of this means that the U.S. will likely need to rethink how military resources are used in order to plan for the future impacts of climate change. In 2021, Delaware Senator Chris Coons introduced the “Civilian Climate Corps Act” which would create a special military branch dedicated to climate change-related missions. Watch the video above for the full story.

The phrase “national security” carries a broad definition. It involves everything related to the government’s ability to protect U.S. citizens, the national economy and other institutions that ensure stability for the country.

The U.S. military is central to maintaining national security both abroad and at home. But the many diverse missions of the armed forces will likely change with Earth’s climate.

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“Climate change is going to change what missions our armed forces are asked to do. Both in how much and in fact totally new missions,” said Dave Titley, a meteorologist and retired rear admiral of the U.S. Navy.

Take extreme events like wildfires as an example. Climate change is making Western wildfires more destructive as they burn faster and hotter with more dry fuels available. The Air National Guard is often called upon to help fight these fires and other troops are deployed to act as first responders on the ground. As these fires happen more frequently, more and more military support is needed, putting a strain on personnel and equipment.

That means fewer resources for other military tasks.

“You call to California, call to Wyoming, call to Colorado and the governor or the general is going to say ‘we’re kind of out of business here,'” Titley said.

During his Naval career, Titley was heavily involved with research efforts in the Arctic with a special focus on global warming and resulting sea ice melt.

“I was asked by the head of the Navy at the time in 2009 to take a look at the ice collapse in the Arctic. What did that mean for the Navy?” Titley said.

That research was the impetus for the formation of the U.S. Navy Task Force on Climate Change. What it realized was that Arctic sea ice melt would likely open up never-before-seen trade routes at high latitudes.

“And the U.S. Navy really has no surface ships that can work effectively up there,” Titley said.

Plus, Russia already owns a huge amount of coastline in Arctic waters, making this a future scenario primed for additional conflict. An example of how increasing global temperatures can add pressure in the background of already tense situations.

“While climate change rarely directly causes conflict, it makes things worse,” Titley said. “It can be the proverbial straw that breaks the camel’s back.”

Some research has also linked rising ocean temperatures to more frequent tropical storm systems. Landfalling storms within the last couple of decades have done significant damage to military bases which are vital for training and making sure that U.S. troops are ready to conduct their missions effectively.

All of this means that the U.S. will likely need to rethink how military resources are used in order to plan for the future impacts of climate change. In 2021, Delaware Senator Chris Coons introduced the “Civilian Climate Corps Act” which would create a special military branch dedicated to climate change-related missions.

Watch the video above for the full story.

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