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Climate Change a Growing “Threat Multiplier,” Says Pentagon


Pentagon showing global leadership on climate threats

Washington, DC, 5 March 2014 – Climate change is a “threat multiplier” and a critical component of future defense strategy, according to the Pentagon’s Quadrennial Defense Review 2014 released yesterday. The 2014 QDR review states:

“Climate change poses another significant challenge for the United States and the world at large. As greenhouse gas emissions increase, sea levels are rising, average global temperatures are increasing, and severe weather patterns are accelerating. These changes, coupled with other global dynamics, …will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs. The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world. These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions – conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

The Pentagon is developing strategies to address climate threats through operational provisions, including altering the type of support the defense forces may be called upon to provide to civil authorities.

“The Pentagon threat assessment shows a sophisticated understanding of the future our defense forces will face as the world continues to warm and as climate impacts continue to increase,” said Durwood Zaelke, President of the Institute for Governance & Sustainable Development. “Secretary Hagel and his team at the Pentagon are climate realists, as they prepare the military to operate in the resource-stressed world of the future, where the frequency and severity of climate disasters continue to grow. This is U.S. global leadership at its finest.”

The 2014 QDR notes that “The impacts of climate change may increase the frequency, scale, and complexity of future missions, including defense support to civil authorities, while at the same time undermining the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities. … Climate change also creates both a need and an opportunity for nations to work together, which the Department will seize through a range of initiatives.”

Like the 2010 QDR, the Pentagon’s 2014 QDR recognizes the need to ensure that all military installations are strengthened against rising sea levels and extreme weather events. The 2010 QDR notes that “In 2008, the National Intelligence Council judged that more than 30 U.S. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels.”

IGSD’s Primer on SLCPs is here, and the Primer on HFCs is here.