The Trump administration may be peddling climate change denial, but that doesn’t mean everyone under its auspices agrees. In particular, the military understands the reality of the situation: Climate change will directly affect the country’s ability to protect itself thanks to powerful storms and unprecedented flooding and sea level rise, as well as indirectly, by stoking additional conflict abroad.
The Pentagon developed a plan under the Obama administration to deal with climate change, but back in March, President Trump rescinded all federal climate change programs initiated by his predecessor, including this one. He essentially ordered the Pentagon to stop preparing for climate change, but thankfully, they’ve ignored him.
Instead, they’re going ahead with it anyway, because it makes sound militaristic and scientific sense. Back in 2014, the Department of Defense (DoD) published what it called a “climate change roadmap”, a blueprint to handle the coming storms of climate change. It was a document that explained how the military needs to adapt to the world just around the corner.
Far from just protecting the military forces themselves, the report also concluded that the American public could be helped out a bit more too. “The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities… in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters,” it reads.
Based on this roadmap, in January 2016, the DoD issued a directive entitled “Climate Change Adaptation and Resilience”. The roadmap was put into practice, and climate change was deemed a certified threat to national security.
Trump’s executive order nixed the roadmap, and the administration is currently assessing whether to rescind the directive itself too.
Fortunately, the Pentagon has found a way around this: It’s leaving the human connection out of it, and instead, it’s changing its language to match that of the administration. Essentially, the climate is changing, and regardless of why, they will act accordingly.
This is far from the first time since the ascent of Trump that the military has thrown its support behind climate change action - or at least warned against inaction. Senior military figures recently warned that climate change could lead to an unprecedented refugee crisis, and in another open letter signed by even a former member US Central Command, others have exclaimed that the anthropogenic phenomenon presents a "significant and direct risks to the US homeland."
The use the phrase "threat multiplier" crops up when it comes to linking climate change to military behavior. This phrase crops up a lot in this regard, and it essentially means that climate change is an ominpresent exacerbator, something that makes every other problem worse. Although you can't say that climate change directly causes conflict, you can perhaps say that it makes it more likely in already unstable parts of the world, so it should come as no surprise that the Pentagon is concerned about it.
Even the trump-appointed Secretary of Defense, James “Mad Dog” Mattis, has previously stated that climate change is a problem. The language he’s used has admittedly always been careful not to attribute it to human activity – the key denial point put forward by the Trump administration at large – but at least he’s recognizing that it’s a clear and present threat.
This, indeed, is how the Pentagon will now phrase things. It’s far from ideal, but by looking at the threats alone, it’s giving them some room to maneuver when it comes to dealing with climate change threats. What they are doing then is preparing for “natural disasters”, without pointing out that human activity is exacerbating them.
[H/T: Military Times]