Obama orders Defense, military to plan for climate change

Source: Hannah Hess, E&E reporter • Posted: Thursday, September 22, 2016

President Obama yesterday ordered defense and military leaders to consider climate change when developing national-security-related doctrines, policies and plans.

The memorandum — sent to more than 20 federal agencies and offices with climate science, intelligence and national security responsibilities — establishes a working group to create a “Climate Change and National Security Action Plan” within 90 days.

White House officials said the action plan will help the military plan better for likely climate-related stresses in the field.

The working group will develop plans to facilitate the exchange of climate data and information, and identify which regions and geographic areas are most vulnerable to global warming, they said.

For the State Department, that means helping ensure that U.S. embassies generate reports that include relevant climate analysis.

“We know that as the climate is changing, the potential for destabilization and conflict is growing across the globe,” White House special assistant Alice Hill said on a conference call with reporters.

Hill said climate change impacts can aggregate already fragile situations, affecting population migration, increasing the demand for humanitarian assistance and leading to “cascading failures” of critical infrastructure systems.

In addition to the memorandum, the National Intelligence Council released a reportfinding “climate change and its resulting effects are likely to pose wide-ranging national security challenges for the United States and other countries over the next 20 years.”

The report said changing trends in extreme weather events suggest climate-related disruptions are already underway and likely to grow over the next five years as conditions like water shortages worsen. Over the next 20 years, the report points to sea-level rise and other broader, systematic disturbances.

Today’s announcement builds on steps the Obama administration has already taken to address emerging national security challenges related to climate change.

For example, earlier this year the White House asked lawmakers for $150 million to start the design of a $1 billion icebreaker. Lawmakers on both sides of the aisle see the number as insufficient (E&E Daily, July 13).

Click here to read the memorandum.