Top Pentagon official warns the US military is ‘not ready’ for climate change

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“We’re not the place we ought to be, and now’s past the time when we have to get in entrance of that problem,” Deputy Protection Secretary Kathleen Hicks instructed CNN.

Past rising sea ranges and excessive climate, local weather change has opened up new areas of strategic competitors just like the Arctic and intensified the competitors for scarce sources, such because the uncooked supplies required to make the lithium-ion batteries essential to electrical autos.

“It is one thing like $750 billion of funding worldwide occurring in lithium-ion batteries,” Hicks mentioned. “The problem is most of that’s occurring in China. They dominate that offer chain. It is a vital nationwide safety problem for us.”

Hicks, the primary girl to carry the Pentagon’s quantity two place, leads the navy’s totally different efforts on local weather change. On a latest two-day journey to Michigan, Connecticut and Rhode Island, Hicks noticed work on the primary era of electrical navy autos, together with an electrical mild reconnaissance automobile at GM Protection.

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Because the civilian automotive trade goes inexperienced, the Pentagon will observe.

“If we do not observe and be a part of the answer, we will likely be left behind,” Hicks mentioned, “and our automobile fleets will not be capable to be supported.”

However electrical navy autos pose their very own set of challenges. Though an electrical automobile might be a lot quieter and emit much less of a warmth signature — important benefits on a battlefield — it additionally must be recharged someway. Refueling a fuel automobile requires provide strains to herald the gas, however it’s nonetheless sooner and extra environment friendly than recharging an electrical automobile on a battlefield.

The short-term resolution, Hicks says, is hybrid tactical autos. It is an interim resolution to bridge the present fuel automobile fleet and the longer term electrical fleet.

“I do see that future. It isn’t proper across the nook, however we’re positively transferring in that course,” mentioned Hicks. “We have now to.”

The struggle in opposition to local weather change has been a cornerstone of the Biden administration’s agenda. In his first week in workplace, President Joe Biden signed an govt order that put the local weather disaster on the middle of international coverage and nationwide safety. “There’s little time left to keep away from setting the world on a harmful, probably catastrophic, local weather trajectory,” Biden wrote within the order.

Large problem

The variety of personnel days for Nationwide Guard members preventing wildfires within the Western United States has elevated greater than tenfold, from about 14,000 5 years in the past to 176,000 this yr.

Local weather change will likely be folded into the up to date Nationwide Protection Technique, due subsequent yr. In final yr’s finances, the Protection Division devoted $617 million to making ready for local weather change and mitigating its results. However this pales compared with the harm from excessive climate occasions.

Two hurricanes — Michael in 2018 and Sally in 2020 — prompted $4 billion in harm at Tyndall Air Drive Base and Pensacola Naval Air Station in Florida, in keeping with a Division of Protection report. Hurricane Florence in 2018 prompted about $3.5 billion in damages and repairs at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina, and flooding at Offutt Air Drive Base in Nebraska prompted about $500 million in damages in 2019, the report mentioned.

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However the Protection Division nonetheless lacks an intensive understanding of the risk to its roughly 5,000 navy services world wide. Final yr, the division launched its DoD Local weather Evaluation Device to raised comprehend the hazards of local weather change based mostly on historic information and future assessments. The division will use the device to take a look at 1,400 services worldwide.

“As soon as we begin to perceive that we will not choose out of local weather change in something that we do – it is only a reality, a actuality of how we take into consideration the longer term — then we will begin to actually get in entrance of and be productive” on local weather change, mentioned Hicks.

For all the Protection Division’s efforts associated to local weather change, Hicks is aware of it could play solely a small half in addressing the large problem.

The Protection Division didn’t ship a prime consultant to the latest COP26 convention on local weather in Glasgow, Scotland. However Hicks welcomed the convention as a chance for key gamers to work collectively on a difficulty larger than anybody nation.

“America can do quite a bit to assist this world drawback,”she mentioned, “however it could’t do it alone.”

CNN’s Jeremy Moorhead contributed to this report.

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