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EXCLUSIVE: U.S. military worries about climate change
As a new administration committed to addressing climate change takes office, intelligence and defense officials are laying plans to address the national security implications of a warmer planet.
In recent months, U.S. military planners have discussed the impact on personnel, equipment and installations of extreme weather events, rising ocean temperatures, shifts in rainfall patterns and stresses on natural resources.
Among the concerns: 63 U.S. coastal military facilities and several nuclear reactors are in danger of flooding from storm surges, said Tom Fingar, the deputy director of national intelligence for analysis.
President-elect Barack Obama next month will receive a key intelligence report, Global Trends 2025. Sources who reviewed the document for the government but asked not to be named said the report gives top priority to climate change.
The Center for Naval Analyses (CNA), a Pentagon-funded think tank, issued a report last year that called climate change a “serious national security threat.”
The U.S. intelligence apparatus has worked up the first national intelligence assessment to focus on the implications of climate change for U.S. national security by 2030.
“There is increasing attention on the hard security side of climate change, and officials in the Pentagon are starting to take the topic a lot more seriously,” said Richard Moss, a climate-change specialist with the World Wildlife Fund.
Researchers say climate change poses a range of security concerns. They include:
Military installations. Coastal military facilities are threatened by rising sea levels and more frequent major, damaging weather events such as hurricanes and tornadoes.
Although Mr. Fingar declined to give details apart from the number of installations in peril, a Pentagon official told The Washington Times that the Pentagon has commissioned a network of scientists to create a model for predicting the impact of storm surges and sea-level rises on military facilities on the Gulf Coast, in the Mid-Atlantic region and in Southern California.
The Strategic Environmental Research and Development Program (SERDP), the Pentagon’s environmental science and research program, is leading the effort. Its findings are expected to help the Defense Department better manage about 30 million acres of land under its care, said the Pentagon official, who asked not to be identified because he is not authorized to speak to the press.
Environmental refugees. Developing countries — already saddled with poverty, unresolved conflicts and poor governance — are at risk of more instability caused by people fleeing drought and catastrophic storms.
Retired Air Force Lt. Gen. Lawrence Farrell predicted increased migration to more developed countries.
“Migrants from Africa will flow to Europe, while the U.S. will see migrants from Mexico, Central and South America,” he said.
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