The Department of Defense is the 5th largest carbon dioxide emitter in the world.
“Climate change is impacting stability in areas of the world where our troops are operating today.”
James Mattis, Former Secretary of Defense
In 2010, as commander of the U.S. Joint Forces Command, James Mattis signed the Joint Operating Environment, which lists climate change as one of the security threats the military expects to confront in the next 25 years. Today, rising sea levels, increased maritime access to the Arctic, and desertification in the Middle East and sub-Saharan Africa are of specific concern to Former Secretary of Defense. Further, the introduction of the report stated that our troops and defense strategists will “find ourselves caught off guard by changes in the political, economic, technological, strategic, and operational environments,” as battlefields evolve.
Climate change has been a growing concern in both National Security circles and at the Pentagon. Former Secretary James Mattis’s written statements only highlight the concerns stemming from the Department of Defense. When he addressed the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2017, he advocated for the environment through expressing his grave concerns as it pertained to U.S. interests and the Pentagon’s assets abroad. In the two previous administrations — under President Obama and President Bush — climate change was considered a pressing threat. From intelligence reports in the National Intelligence Assessment under the Bush Administration to the Obama Administration’s inclusion of climate change in the National Security Strategy, various organizations like the Center for Climate and Security have taken issue with the Paris Accord pivot.
“Ensure that climate change-related impacts are fully considered in the development of national security doctrine, policy, and plans.”
President Obama Executive Orders to over 12 agencies, including the Department of Defense.
In September 2016, a memo titled “Climate Change and National Security” developed an action plan to create a Climate and National Security Working Group. However, the results of such effort are unclear at the moment. Since 2007, President Bush signed a law requiring the Pentagon use 25% of its electricity from renewable resources by 2025. In 2012, the Department of Defense committed to this plan that has proved largely beneficial. To elaborate, a switch from diesel generators to a solar grid decreases the need to run dangerous convoys from base to base.
During Former Secretary Mattis’s Confirmation Hearings, he addressed these very issues. He stated that climate change requires a broad and holistic government response. Upon his confirmation, he stated to the Senate, that he would ensure the Department of Defense would be prepared to address climate change effects in their threat assessments, resources, and readiness reports. The Secretary even discussed the need to cut dependence on fossil fuels and explore renewable energy wherever it made sense for the Armed Forces. As a reminder, this is a career Marine who has no stake in the energy business, only a stake in protecting the lives of his Marines, and making them more capable weapon systems.
However, disagreements arose with President Trump administration’s Budget Request. Although Fiscal Year 2019’s budget has not fully been completed, large cuts will likely occur at various agencies like the Commerce Department’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA). NOAA was slashed by 20% in the Fiscal Year 2019 Budget Request. This encompasses the sub-departments that are expected to be slashed like the Oceanic & Atmospheric Research by 37%, the National Weather Service by 6%, and the National Environmental Satellite Data, & Information Service by 26%.
Renewable resources and the ability to monitor or analyze the extreme conditions resulting from climate change are vitally important for National Security. Droughts, famines, desertification, and decreasing risk to our Armed Service members by anticipating the changes of war, will solidify the hard power of the United States in this next century.