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Melting ice in the Arctic, unanticipated flooding, skyrocketing heat in vital places around the globe, unpredictable weather patterns and large-scale societal disruption are all growing concerns associated with the often discussed and at times troubling phenomenon of climate change.
While most are aware of the scientific discussion surrounding climate change, there are extremely consequential, if lesser recognized elements associated with it …. Such as major national security concerns.
How will forward-operating, dismounted mobile units stay sufficiently cool to perform operations while in 110 or higher degree heat? How will Arctic troops maneuver and navigate a fast-changing environment in which melting ice creates new waterways on a regular basis? How would combat units adapt should sudden, unexpected storms cause massive flooding in populated areas? What happens if all of these things transpire amid an ongoing combat operation?
Climate Change Strategy
These difficult to answer questions form the primary inspiration for the US Army’s recently released Climate Change Strategy, a document which sets ambitious goals and calls for sweeping changes across the service.
“Our mission is to fight and win our nation’s wars. Nothing in this strategy will detract from this mission. The strategy will increase the capacity of the operational force, improve places where soldiers are working and living with family and increase our ability to deploy,” Paul Farnan, Acting Assistant Secretary of the Army, Installations, Energy & Environment, told reporters.
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The strategy addresses the many national security implications of climate change in great detail, identifying things like changing rainfall patterns, water shortages and other impactful consequences.
“As GHG emissions increase global average temperatures, scientists have observed several primary impacts of this hazard—in particular, more and worsening droughts in some regions while other regions experience more frequent and severe flooding. As a result, some regions of the world will have less access to water supplies, while others will be subjected to widespread and prolonged inundation,” the text of the strategy states.
The strategy even takes this a step further, explaining that climate instability and extreme, fast-changing weather make the prospect of “increased armed conflict in places where established social orders and populations are disrupted.”
“Climate change is a threat to national security. We will have to operate where there is melting of polar ice caps. We will want to offer humanitarian assistance and disaster response missions to assist people dealing with devastating storms,” Farnan said.
For instance, should populations find themselves without crucial resources such as food and water, then there would certainly be a much higher probability of armed conflict or war. There are also other substantially destabilizing possibilities such as widespread humanitarian disasters, Farnan explained.
“The Army must prepare for potential consequences including energy and water scarcity; damage to installations and infrastructure; displacement of and disruptions to operations, supply chains, and logistics; and imperiled Soldier health through exposure to airborne irritants like smoke and dust, disease vectors, and temperature extremes,” the strategy states.
Kris Osborn is the President of Warrior Maven - Center for Military Modernization and the Defense Editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.