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The Pentagon’s War Against Climate Change

Judith Curry, Climate Etc.

The military wisely warns against placing all of your bets on the certainty of one specific thing happening.

Several months ago, I read the report National Security and the Accelerating Risks of Climate Change, written by the CNA Military Advisory Board consisting retired Generals and Admirals. From the Foreword:

When it comes to thinking through long-term global challenges, none are more qualified than our most senior military leaders. Not only do they have decades of experience managing risk and responding to conflict on the battlefield, but they are also experts in geopolitical analysis and longrange strategic planning.

Military leaders typically look at challenges with imperfect or conflicting information. Despite not having 100 percent certainty, they weigh the consequences of various courses of action—including the consequences of no action—and make informed decisions based on their experience and risk forbearance.

 The update serves as a bipartisan call to action. It makes a compelling case that climate change is no longer a future threat—it is taking place now. 

From a letter to the reader:

The nature and pace of observed climate changes—and an emerging scientific consensus on their projected consequences—pose severe risks for our national security. During our decades of experience in the U.S. military, we have addressed many national security challenges, from containment and deterrence of the Soviet nuclear threat during the Cold War to political extremism and transnational terrorism in recent years. The national security risks of projected climate change are as serious as any challenges we have faced.

When I read this, I yawned.  They seem highly confident of climate model projections, and more confident than WG2 that human-caused climate change (rather than natural climate variability) is causing these problems.  I expected better, since military leaders are experts at assessing risks and making decisions with imperfect or conflicting information.

It seems that current reality of Pentagon thinking on climate change is more interesting than the CNA Report.  Bloomberg has an intriguing article The Pentagon’s war against climate change. Excerpts (JC bold):

U.S. conservatives make at least two arguments against action on climate change: We don’t have enough conclusive evidence to prove it is happening, and even if we did, the cost of cutting our carbon emissions would be too high. The U.S. military has been quietly rebutting both those arguments.

Start with the issue of uncertainty. Rather than endlessly debate whether climate change was real and would worsen, the military made a priority of dealing with it starting in 2010. It’s protecting naval bases against flooding, using less water in areas prone to drought and preparing for more power failures. The result is that bases use less electricity and are better able to withstand extreme weather.

We look for indicators, warnings, reasons to take actions that are prudent,” said Dennis McGinn, the Navy’s assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment, at a congressional hearing in May. The alternative is “to completely place a bet on one particular certainty happening.”

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