How Climate Change Can Lead to Global Instability

Climate change just doesn’t just impact communities across the country and pose a risk to public health — the rapidly changing climate also threatens defense readiness and stability around the world. The intelligence community , senior defense officials , former national security leaders , and previous Department of Defense (DOD) strategies and plans have come to a strong consensus that climate change is a threat multiplier that creates significant risks to national security and military readiness.

Climate change can lead to runaway global instability

Climate change will exacerbate food and water insecurity, infectious disease outbreaks, natural resource scarcity, commodity price shocks, economic distress and inequality, natural disaster severity, and population displacement and migration.

Rear Admiral David W. Titley, USN (Retired), Ph.D., testified at a July 2019 Budget Committee hearing that climate change can make already unstable situations worse — sometimes catastrophically so — and its risks “affect, and are affected by, other large-scale 21st century trends: population growth, urbanization, expanding demand for food, energy and water resources, and globalization.”

For example, climate change can lead to water challenges which will likely increase the risk of instability and state failure, exacerbate regional tensions, and divert attention from working with the United States and other key allies on important policy objectives. Since the U.S. military force is frequently directed to impacted areas, more of our troops could be put at risk.

Military bases must prepare to withstand the extremes of tomorrow

Some of the nation’s most vital installations and operations are trying to manage the increasing risks posed by climate change. The DOD has suffered an estimated $8.5 billion in damage in just the past year at Camp Lejeune (Hurricane Florence), Tyndall Air Force Base (Hurricane Michael) and Offutt Air Force Base (Nebraska flooding).

Rear Admiral Ann C. Phillips, USN (Retired) testified at a July 2019 Budget Committee hearing that a projected three foot increase in sea level rise would threaten 128 coastal DoD installations in the United States, 43 percent of which are Navy facilities valued at roughly $100 billion, and DOD has more recently assessed that approximately two-thirds of 79 mission assurance priority installations are at risk from climate-related impacts.

In addition, whether they are at home or abroad, America’s forces will need to be equipped to train and operate in areas with increasingly extreme weather.

Conclusion

Addressing the risks posed by climate change requires thinking about the impact on a global scale. Fiscal responsibility and good governance call for both climate mitigation and adaptation actions.

The cost of doing is not only shortsighted, it’s potentially catastrophic. House Democrats are committed to addressing climate risks and bolstering global stability and military preparedness.

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