Climate: ‘Let’s call it what it is: a major security issue’

Source: Courtney Columbus, E&E News reporter • Posted: Monday, March 25, 2019

Devastating floods in Nebraska this week affected Offutt Air Force Base and Camp Ashland, drawing fresh attention to the impacts of climate change on national security.

The flooding sparked reactions from political hopefuls.

“Climate change isn’t just happening in the Arctic. It’s happening in the Midwest. It’s killing people. So let’s call it what it is: a major security issue,” tweetedPete Buttigieg, the mayor of South Bend, Ind., who has launched a presidential exploratory committee.

Washington Gov. Jay Inslee (D), who has said climate change is his top priority, chimed in as well. In response to a story about EPA Administrator Andrew Wheeler dismissing the immediate threats of climate change, Inslee tweeted, “Parts of the Midwest are literally underwater right now.”

Democratic Senate candidate Mark Kelly, who is challenging Sen. Martha McSally (R-Ariz.), also weighed in on climate and security.

“Thinking of all those affected by this flooding, and especially the servicemembers and military families around Offutt Air Force Base. We have to better understand how extreme weather can threaten readiness and our national security, and prepare for it,” he tweeted.

Water started to enter Offutt on March 15, said Col. David Norton, the base’s support group commander.

“In the end, obviously, the waters were just too much. It took over everything we put up,” Norton told the Associated Press. “The speed at which it came in was shocking.”

Personnel used more than 235,000 sandbags and 460 flood barriers, according to a news release.

At Camp Ashland on the banks of the Platte River, water rose above the levees and then created a breach about 40 yards wide, said National Guard public affairs officer Kevin Hynes.

Camp Ashland also experienced flooding in 2015.

“We’ve never seen anything like this happen before,” he said. “Essentially, the entire base was affected by the flooding.”

Floodgates were installed after the 2015 floods, Hynes said.

“Those protective devices weren’t high enough for this level of water that came in,” he said.

But some buildings that had previously been elevated with stilts remained above water in the latest flood, he said.

For John Conger, director of the Center for Climate and Security, the Nebraska floods highlight the importance of planning at all military installations, not just coastal ones.

“It just goes to show the importance of planning and implementing resiliency measures at all of our bases,” he said.

“This is not simply an issue of hurricanes and sea-level rise, but something that each of our bases needs to look at. Each is going to have its own issues and own problems it needs to work through.”