Pentagon Report Says Climate Change Poses U.S. Security Risk

Terrorism, disease, food and water shortages could worsen

Oct 14, 2014
Outside Magazine

The report says that loss of glaciers will strain water supplies, a risk for global security.    olliemtdog/Thinkstock

The Pentagon released a report on Monday saying that climate change is a threat to national security. The report says that increased risk from terrorism, infectious disease, global poverty, and food and water shortages are immediate concerns for the United States.

“The loss of glaciers will strain water supplies in several areas of our hemisphere,” Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said Monday at a meeting of defense ministers in Peru, according to the New York Times. “Destruction and devastation from hurricanes can sow the seeds of instability. Droughts and crop failures can leave millions of people without any lifeline and trigger waves of mass migration.”

The report (PDF), titled “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap,” outlines how the Department of Defense will implement plans for climate change risks. The Pentagon is conducting surveys at more than 7,000 bases and facilities to assess their vulnerability. Some of the installations have already begun preparations for a projected sea-level rise of 1.5 feet in the next 20 to 50 years.

The effects of climate change will not only cause damage from floods and extreme weather events, but in the case of natural disasters and emergencies, the National Guard will have to deploy more frequently, resulting in increased costs. Abroad, the report says that the military must consider how food and water shortages could spur political unrest in high-risk regions like the Middle East and Africa, in turn leading to increasing influence of groups like the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, which, the New York Times reports, has taken control of scarce water resources to cement its hold in the area. Hagel also released a report (PDF) last year detailing how the United States would have to keep an eye on increased human activity in the Arctic as the sea ice continues to melt. 

Hagel’s remarks come two months before the United Nations is set to discuss climate change in Peru. “Politics or ideology must not get in the way of sound planning,” he said according the Washington Post. “Our armed forces must prepare for a future with a wide spectrum of possible threats, weighing risks and probabilities to ensure that we will continue to keep our country secure.”