Climate Change Produces Strange Bedfellows

Strange bedfellows… you know, a peculiar alliance or combination— an “odd couple.” Two that share a common motivating force but are otherwise very different from one another.  Yes, that chummy pair, the Department of Defense and environmentalists. Funny thing is that some members of these two groups are finding they support each other wholeheartedly.

Last year the Environmental Defense Fund, who describe themselves as, “…passionate, pragmatic environmental advocates who believe in prosperity and stewardship” on their web site, presented the DOD with an award recognizing their efforts to make military bases and equipment more efficient and environmentally friendly. When then Defense Secretary Panetta accepted the recognition from EDF, he spoke frankly about DOD’s concerns, “…the Defense Department spent about $15 billion on fuel for military operations last year [2011]. In Afghanistan alone, the Pentagon uses more than 50 million gallons of fuel each month on average. Combined with rising gas prices, this creates new budget issues for the department,” Panetta said. He went on to pledge, “we are going to be investing more than a billion dollars in more efficient aircraft and aircraft engines, in hybrid electric drives for our ships, in improved generators, in micro-grids for combat bases and combat vehicle energy-efficient programs,” he said. “We are investing another billion dollars to make our installations here at home more energy-efficient, and we are using them as the test bed to demonstrate next-generation energy technologies.”? Hooray! Just as DOD was instrumental in the development of the Internet, now we will benefit from these “test bed” activities in the development of energy efficient products and systems.

Last month Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear III, the top American military officer in the Pacific region containing China, North Korea, and Russia, warned that the greatest long-term threat to security in the region isn’t any of those countries, it’s climate change. “You have the real potential here in the not-too-distant future of nations displaced by rising sea level. Certainly weather patterns are more severe than they have been in the past. We are on super typhoon 27 or 28 this year in the Western Pacific. The average is about 17. The displacement of entire nations will cause significant upheaval in the region”, the admiral noted, creating large numbers of climate refugees.

Now DOD has issued its Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap. In it they say that, “DOD is well-versed in employing systematic methodologies and modeling frameworks in order to assess potential threats and risks to national security.”  It is just that the rest of us didn’t expect that expertise to be applied to climate change adaptation schemes; but that is exactly what is happening. From the CCAR section called, Agency Vulnerabilities: Analysis of Risks and Opportunities we read, “The direction, degree, and rates of the physical changes will differ by region, as will the impacts to the military’s mission and operations. By taking a proactive, flexible approach to vulnerability assessment and adaptation planning that recognizes uncertainty and incorporates the best available science, the Department can keep pace with changing climate patterns and minimize their impact on operations.” 

 Wouldn’t it be great if we could just get the rest of our leadership to walk down the same path? Let the people around you (local/state/federal representatives and your employer, for example) know that like DOD, we expect the rest of government and corporate America to “incorporate the best available science” so that they can plan effectively and “keep pace with the changing climate patterns and minimize their impact”!