gregwest98 / Flickr Pentagon...
gregwest98 / Flickr

No surprise to anyone, in the second of three interlocking security reports—the National Defense Strategy—the Pentagon has eliminated any reference to climate change. Just as it did in the first of the reports issued last month and can be expected to do with the third, to be completed later this year. Alexander C. Kaufman, who has been following the issue at HuffPost, calls itan Orwellian rhetorical shift away from a scientific reality at an agency that has long avoided the issue’s politics”:

A summary document released Friday morning makes no mention of “climate,” “warming,” “planet,” “sea levels” or even “temperature.” All 22 uses of the word “environment” refer to the strategic or security landscape. The 11-page memo, signed by Defense Secretary James Mattis, is the first update to the policy in a decade.

It’s unlikely the Department of Defense will release a full National Defense Strategy report; instead, the document is expected to remain classified. 

Last month, the White House dropped climate change as a threat in its 56-page National Security Strategy, which focuses on the overall national security posture. The National Defense Strategy, written by Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, looks at Pentagon goals within the National Security Strategy. The third document, the National Military Strategy, which is being written by Gen. Joe Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will explain how the Pentagon will deliver the objectives of the National Defense Strategy on a daily basis. 

Aaron Mehta reports at Defense News: 

The Pentagon’s new National Defense Strategy lays out a world where great-power competition, rather than counterterrorism, will drive the department’s decision-making and force structure.

“Inter-state strategic competition, not terrorism, is now the primary concern in U.S. national security,” the 11-page unclassified summary of the strategy reads. Instead, “the central challenge to U.S. prosperity and security is the reemergence of long-term strategic competition,” primarily from China and Russia.

One might be tempted to attribute the axing of “climate change” mentions to myopia or ignorance. But the people who had adopted this censorship policy know exactly what they’re doing. They can see the problems. And they know that climate change is happening despite their public denial. Doing anything about it, however, would hurt some of their biggest fans in industry and upset other Americans who have bought into that denial.

Kaufman points out that removing climate change as a threat in these documents contradicts what was approved in the National Defense Authorization Act signed by Pr*sident Trump in December. That document includes nearly 900 words devoted to discussing dangers to military bases because of sea level rise as well as threats from droughts and famines caused by global warming that undermine the viability of some nation-states, allowing terrorists to set up bases of operations in places they previously could not:

“A three-foot rise in sea levels will threaten the operations of more than 128 United States military sites, and it is possible that many of these at-risk bases could be submerged in the coming years,” the bill reads. “In the Arctic, the combination of melting sea ice, thawing permafrost, and sea-level rise is eroding shorelines, which is damaging radar and communication installations, runways, seawalls, and training areas.”

Ironically, the military had been one of the first U.S. government operations to look seriously at climate change in a 1990 report by the U.S. Naval War College—“Global Climate Change Implications for the U.S. Navy.” The George W. Bush administration added “climate change” as one of the nation’s security challenges in the 2008 National Defense Strategy. Under President Obama in 2010, and more strongly in 2014, the “Quadrennial Defense Review”—which describes U.S. military doctrine, including threats and strategic objectives—climate change got a lot of ink, which included:

Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence. […]

Finally, the Department will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change, which will continue to affect the operating environment and the roles and missions that U.S. Armed Forces undertake. The Department will remain ready to operate in a changing environment amid the challenges of climate change and environmental damage. We have increased our preparedness for the consequences of environmental damage and continue to seek to mitigate these risks while taking advantage of opportunities. The Department’s operational readiness hinges on unimpeded access to land, air, and sea training and test space. Consequently, we will complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on our missions and operational resiliency, and develop and implement plans to adapt as required. 

Climate change also creates both a need and an opportunity for nations to work together, which the Department will seize through a range of initiatives. We are developing new policies, strategies, and plans, including the Department’s Arctic Strategy and our work in building humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities, both within the Department and with our allies and partners.

While the Pentagon has taken a proactive stance on climate change, critics inside and outside the government say it isn’t doing nearly enough. This is true not only in assessing strategic risks in a world being changed by global warming but also in dealing with climate change-induced problems at its military bases at home and overseas.

In an 83-page report released in December, the U.S. Government Accountability Office found that only a third of the 45 bases the investigators visited were doing anything to adapt or prepare for climate change. Among the problems, tidal flooding at the Naval Station Norfolk, with no plans to fix it.

As was clear from the get-go, the Trump regime has no plan to mitigate, adapt to or prepare for the impacts of climate change because so many of the top officials actively deny the science behind that change.

Not, obviously, just when it comes to rolling back environmental regulations to boost the bottom lines of the fossil fuel industry, but also when it comes to U.S. security, an arena where Trump and his pals like to claim, like so many Republicans before them, that protecting the nation from threats foreign and domestic is their highest priority. If they truly cared, instead of just mouthing the usual blather about keeping America strong, they would not be excluding the greatest threat of all in their defense planning documents. 

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