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CHIPS Articles: DoD Releases Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense

DoD Releases Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense
By CHIPS Magazine - January 22, 2019
The Report on Effects of a Changing Climate to the Department of Defense, released Jan. 18, responds to section 335 of the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2018 (Public Law 115-91). Specifically, this report provides an assessment of the significant vulnerabilities from climate-related events in order to identify high risks to mission effectiveness on installations and to operations. In developing this report, DoD discussed the approach with staff from the House and Senate Armed Services Committees, both majority and minority, on more than one occasion, according to the report.

This report is a high-level assessment of the vulnerability of DoD installations to five climate/weather impacts: recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires, and thawing permafrost. From a resources perspective, DoD is incorporating climate resilience as a cross-cutting consideration for planning and decision-making processes, and not as a separate program or specific set of actions.

Some impacts are closely related or intensify the effects of each other (e.g., drought, desertification, wildfire), whereas others are somewhat related (e.g., coastal flooding driven by changing sea level can impact river conveyance, compounding riverine flood levels for tidally-influenced rivers). Taken together, however, these impacts help describe the overall vulnerabilities to DoD installations from changing future conditions.

According to the report, about two-thirds of the 79 installations addressed are vulnerable to current or future recurrent flooding and more than one-half are vulnerable to current or future drought. About one-half are vulnerable to wildfires. It is important to note that areas subject to wildfire may then experience serious mudslides or erosion when rains follow fires. Impacts are dispersed around the country. Not surprisingly, impacts vary by region for coastal flooding, with greater impacts to the East coast and Hawaii than the West coast.

Desertification vulnerabilities are limited to the sites on the list with arid soils; these are in California, New Mexico and Nevada. Drought vulnerabilities are more widely dispersed across the country. Wildfire and recurrent flooding impacts are the most widely dispersed.

DoD considers resilience in the installation planning and basing processes to include impacts on both built and natural infrastructure, according to the report. This includes consideration of environmental vulnerabilities in installation master planning, management of natural resources, design and construction standards, utility systems/service, and emergency management operations.

Climate and environmental resilience efforts span all levels and lines of effort, and are not framed as a separate program. Additionally, resources for assessing and responding to climate impacts are provided within existing DoD missions, funds, and capabilities and subsumed under existing risk management processes. The Military Departments provide most of the resources for on-the-ground activities in the Geographic Combatant Commands.

The Appendix provides a list of installations at risk and their associated climatic effects. Download the report here.

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