Trump's DOD Unprepared for Climate Adaptation, Rejected Recommendations for Improvement

WASHINGTON, Dec. 13 – After reviewing mounting evidence from the Government Accountability Office that climate change has reduced military readiness, President Donald Trump's administration rejected the science attributing extreme weather events to climate change as well as recommendations to monitor the effects of climate change.

The Pentagon’s rejection of established climate science comes in response to a new GAO report prepared for Sens. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.), Jack Reed (D-R.I.), Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Brian Schatz (D-Hawaii), Tim Kaine (D-Va.) and Richard Durbin (D-Ill.). The study, reviewing the Pentagon’s efforts to plan for the impact of climate change on military bases in overseas locations, was requested in early 2016.

 DOD has publicly acknowledged since 2010 that climate change is a threat to national security, and has said in the past that climate change will have serious implications on the ability to maintain and sustain military infrastructure and ensure military readiness. However, the Pentagon does not track how much the impacts of climate change will cost the department and regularly exempts key national security sites from vulnerability assessments, making it harder for DOD to effectively manage and budget for climate-related risks, according to a new report GAO prepared. New installations are rarely designed to include climate change adaptation because DOD inconsistently includes the relevant information in training and design standards.

In its review of overseas military installations, GAO found numerous examples of potential and observed impacts of climate change-related extreme weather on DOD infrastructure and operations, including flooding, facility damage, water shortages, power outages, increased maintenance and encroachment on training. Many of these events threaten the United States’ military preparedness.

In response to GAO’s recommendation that DOD require installations to systematically and comprehensively track the costs associated with extreme weather and climate change, President Trump’s Department of Defense said last month that the science attributing extreme weather events to climate change “is not supported” by previous GAO reports, and that associating extreme weather events to climate change “does not warrant the time and money” necessary to do so.

DOD also rejected recommendations that the Army, Navy and Air Force take steps to administer climate-change vulnerability assessments to relevant locations, saying that the qualitative nature of the assessments render them “not a useful tool” for making long-term decisions.

"With President Trump as commander in chief, the Department of Defense, which previously called climate change a national security threat, now questions the science linking increasingly common extreme weather events to climate change. This is unacceptable and could severely jeopardize our military readiness. The Department of Defense should be doing all it can to fight the causes and prepare for the impacts of climate change to prevent threats to our national security, not questioning virtually the entire scientific community," Sanders said.

“In this report, the nonpartisan GAO finds that climate change is real, that its effects (like sea level rise) are tangibly impacting military bases around the world, and that there is clear public benefit to doing something about it,” said Kaine, a member of the Senate Armed Service Committee. “This follows on previous GAO reports showing clear challenges facing domestic military bases like Naval Station Norfolk. When scientists, the Department of Defense, Hampton Roads military and civilian leaders, and the federal government’s accountability watchdog all agree that climate change is real and needs to be addressed, we should listen to them. Denial is not an option.”

“The U.S. defense community has consistently issued warning about climate change being a ‘threat multiplier.’ To postpone action to address and adapt for greater certainty on the causes and effects of climate change, as the Trump Administration is proposing, would be wholly irresponsible and potentially very costly,” said Cardin. “The findings of this report demonstrate that DOD has worked to understand the challenge, but needs a willingness at the political level, and adequate resources, to do more to lower risk and ensure military readiness in the face of our changing global climate.”

 Click here to read the GAO report.