Politics & Policy

Army Prioritizes Climate Change as ‘Serious Threat’ to National Security

Soldiers from the U.S. Army Third Infantry Division line up to meet U.S. and Polish dignitaries during a troop engagement event in support of DEFENDER-Europe 20 at Drawsko Pomorskie Training Area, Poland, March 11, 2020. (Sergeant First Class Joy Dulen/US Army)

In a memo released Friday, the U.S. Army announced that it now classifies climate change as a “serious threat to U.S. national security interests and defense objectives.” The statement subsequently signaled the military’s intention to prioritize combatting climate change with new risk analyses, threat projections, installation and natural-resource planning, supply-chain procurement considerations, and general strategy.

The statement added that the effects of climate change can induce “humanitarian disasters, undermine weak governments and contribute to long-term social and economic disruptions.”

“The Army has a lot to be proud of, yet there is a lot of work to continue to operate efficiently across extreme weather and climate conditions,” the memo read.

To prepare for and mitigate the fallout from the Earth’s warming, the Army plans to conduct “in-depth assessments of likely climate change effects on the Army’s worldwide missions,” while also working to “lead the way in technology development for tactical vehicles that balances increased capability with decreased climate impacts.”

The Army’s policy change comes after the Biden administration signaled its commitment to fighting the climate crisis as a national-security threat. In April, Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III called climate change an “existential threat.”

“From coast to coast and across the world, the climate crisis has caused substantial damage and put people in danger, making it more difficult for us to carry out our mission of defending the United States and our allies,” Austin commented at the Leaders Summit on Climate.

At the conference, the secretary shared that Biden had charged the United States’ 18 intelligence organizations with drafting a National Intelligence Estimate detailing the national-security implications of climate change.

“We in the Department of Defense are committed to doing our part, from increasing the energy efficiency of our platforms and installations, to deploying clean distributed generation and energy storage, to electrifying our own vehicle fleets,” he said.

Austin emphasized the need to forge a new economic sector and global infrastructure for clean energy that is sustainable and renewable. He confirmed that other allies and strategic partners are collaborating with the United States in meeting the challenge.

“We’re not alone,” he said.

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