by Matt Smith
A bit over a year after identifying climate change as a “significant challenge” for the US military, the US Department of Defense has given its top officials orders for handling the hazards posed by a warming world.
The boring-but-important 12-page document issued in January tells the armed service chiefs and top civilian officials to identify how climate change will affect their missions, figure out how to manage any risks it poses, and factor those into their planning. It gives specific tasks to various Defense Department offices and regional commands, from determining how higher sea levels or longer droughts affect US bases to what new gear might be needed to work in a thawing Arctic.
“Although this looks very bureaucratic in nature, I would actually give the department full credit for it,” said David Titley, a retired rear admiral who served as the Navy’s top oceanographer. “I think this is one of the more significant steps they’ve done, because they’ve linked that high-level strategy down to a daily to-do list.”
The Pentagon is ordering the top brass to incorporate climate change into virtually everything they do, from testing weapons to training troops to war planning to joint exercises with allies.
A new directive’s theme: The U.S. Armed Forces must show “resilience” and beat back the threat based on “actionable science.”
It says the military will not be able to maintain effectiveness unless the directive is followed. It orders the establishment of a new layer of bureaucracy — a wide array of “climate change boards, councils and working groups” to infuse climate change into “programs, plans and policies.”