Floods caused power outages at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Italy in 2005.

Michael Lavender/U.S. Navy/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)

Half of U.S. military facilities vulnerable to extreme weather and climate risks

Originally published by E&E News.

About half of the military's infrastructure has been affected by extreme weather and other climate-related risks, according to a Pentagon report obtained by a nonpartisan climate think tank.

The report — dated January 2018 and published yesterday by the Center for Climate & Security in Washington, D.C. — surveyed more than 3,500 military sites around the world. It found that about 50% of bases reported effects from events like storm surge flooding, wildfire, drought and wind.

The report is relatively narrow in scope. It examines only current climate-related effects rather than future effects of warming temperatures, and it does not offer cost estimates.

But the responses from individual installations provide a "preliminary qualitative picture of assets currently affected by severe weather events as well as an indication of assets that may be affected by sea level rise in the future," the report says.

That information is important groundwork for the Department of Defense (DOD) as it prepares for climate change, said John Conger, who served at DOD during the Obama administration and directed the early stages of the report.

The fiscal 2018 defense authorization bill includes a provision requiring each branch of the military to develop a list of the bases and installations that are most vulnerable to the effects of global warming and report on their efforts to mitigate those effects.

Conger said the data from the survey will serve as a "good foundation" as the department develops the report, required by the National Defense Authorization Act.

"Across the installation enterprise, I think it's clear that a lot of folks are experiencing effects," said Conger, who is now a senior policy adviser at the Center for Climate & Security.

The important thing for DOD to look at, though, will be how increasingly common extreme weather events affect training and mission effectiveness on the ground.

"It's not so much whether you saw a flood; it's whether you saw a flood and it impacted your mission," Conger said.

I think it's worth noting that this report was ultimately released by the current administration, which can be characterized as skeptical of climate change issues. That's good news that they recognize that there are these vulnerabilities and these issues.

John Conger, Center for Climate & Security

So far in the Trump presidency, DOD has served as a balance to the more political inclinations of the rest of the administration on the issue of climate change, even if it is sometimes less prominent than in the Obama-era Pentagon.

Climate change was not included in the Pentagon's recently released National Defense Strategy. And the new survey was not released publicly until it was obtained by the Center for Climate & Security.

It was initially given only to Congress as part of a requirement in the bill report for the fiscal 2017 military construction appropriations bill.

Still, DOD appears to have no plans to stop preparing for a warmer future.

"I think it's worth noting that this report was ultimately released by the current administration, which can be characterized as skeptical of climate change issues," said Conger. "That's good news that they recognize that there are these vulnerabilities and these issues."

Reprinted from Greenwire with permission from E&E News. Copyright 2018. E&E provides essential news for energy and environment professionals at www.eenews.net