New Pentagon report declares climate change and energy as key issues “shaping the future security environment”

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Under Secretary of Defense for Policy Michele Flournoy conducts a press conference with Director of DOD Force Structure Vice Adm. Steve Stanley to discuss the Quadrennial Defense Review and Ballistic Missile Defense Review at the Pentagon, Feb. 1, 2010. DoD photo by Cherie Cullen.The Pentagon released (1 February 2010), its Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) for 2010 [PDF] , stating that crafting a strategic approach to climate and energy are a priority. 

The QDR states, “Climate change and energy are two key issues that will play a significant role in shaping the future security environment. Although they produce distinct types of challenges, climate change, energy security, and economic stability are inextricably linked.
 
The close relationship between conflict and environmental security has been acknowledged by scholars for decades but has attracted little attention from the security community. This QDR along with recent reports, Congressional testimony by admirals and generals alike, and the Central Intelligence Agency’s launching of The Center on Climate Change and National Security signals recognition and a changing approach.
 
The report also states that, “While climate change alone does not cause conflict, it may act as an accelerant of instability or conflict, placing a burden to respond on civilian institutions and militaries around the world. In addition, extreme weather events may lead to increased demands for defense support to civil authorities for humanitarian assistance or disaster response both within the United States and overseas. In some nations, the military is the only institution with the capacity to respond to a large-scale natural disaster.”
 
The QDR outlined the two broad ways climate change will impact the Department of Defense:
  1. "Climate change will shape the operating environment, roles, and missions that we undertake: Assessments conducted by the intelligence community indicate that climate change could have significant geopolitical impacts around the world, contributing to poverty, environmental degradation, and the further weakening of fragile governments. Climate change will contribute to food and water scarcity, will increase the spread of disease, and may spur or exacerbate mass migration.
  2. DoD will need to adjust to the impacts of climate change on our facilities and military capabilities: The Department must complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on its missions and adapt as required —more than 30 U.S. military installations are already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels. DoD’s operational readiness hinges on continued access to land, air, and sea training and test space."
 
In terms of DoD diminishing its own contribution to climate pollution, Dorothy Robyn, Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for the Environment, stated that the Pentagon would reduce its emissions from non-combat operations by 34% from 2008 levels by 2020 (Guardian article).

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