Uncle Sam Wants You...for Climate Change

Nationally, the military and defense industry is acknowledging, slowly and perhaps begrudgingly, the reality of climate change.

The military is already increasing its climate change spending from a Climate change can be viewed as a U.S. security threat. miniscule one percent to two percent of military security, spurred by one-time stimulus funds. A report on U.S. government spending in this area warns the military not to be lulled to sleep on the issue by the current stimulus funds, and recognizes the need to continue committing resources to give climate change its due priority.

Is Climate Change a Terrorist?

Indeed, climate change can be viewed as a U.S. security threat. The report by the Institute for Policy Studies (IPS) noted above cites National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Play Video Climate Change Impacts on National Security: Admiral David Titley Climate Change Impacts on National Security: Admiral David Titley findings, similar to others, that if man-made carbon dioxide levels continue to go up, droughts and sea level rise pose a danger worldwide.

Responding to that, the U.S. military has identified these impacts as having the potential to create violent conflict in the future. Climate change is “a principal threat to U.S. and global security,” said the IPS study, noting that even the Center for Naval Analysis Military Advisory Board, hardly a left-wing organization, said that climate change can become a “threat multiplier in unstable regions of the world.”

Rhode Island’s Powerful Defense Industry

Rhode Island’s defense industry is one of the state’s strongest economic sectors, and it has sustained growth over the past years since the withdrawal of the Navy fleet in the late 1970s dealt the state a crushing economic blow.

The most recent figures for the defense industry’s contribution to Rhode Island’s economy indicate an income of $1.75 billion in 2008. While the defense industry is comprised of both defense contract companies and United States Navy installations, Rhode Island’s economy is very “Navy-centric.” That translates as the majority of defense industry revenue is generated by U.S. Navy activity in the state. For example, Naval Station Newport, which includes the Naval War College and Naval Undersea Warfare Center, employed an estimated 7,000 people in 2010. The revenue generated by Rhode Island’s defense industry is expected to show an increase over the past years because of Naval Station Newport’s expansion to include the Navy Supply Corps School.

Recognizing the Threat

Although climate change is expected to have significant impacts on facilities located in coastal regions, it is unlikely that Rhode Island’s Naval installations will suffer severe adverse effects. This is because the U.S. Navy has already begun to consider and prepare for the impacts and outcomes of climate change.

Climate Change Goes to War

Other actions include preparing warfare strategies for different climate scenarios and integrating climate change into training curriculum. The “U.S. Navy Climate Change Roadmap” (pdf) published in April 2010 outlines an extensive plan to adapt to climate change. The Navy is taking action to “address sea level rise impacts on infrastructure and real estate through strategic investments, develop and implement installation adaptation strategies to address water resource challenges, consider impact of climate change on future missions and force structure.”

“Climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, U.S. military installations and access to natural resources worldwide. It will affect the type, scope and location of future Navy missions.”

- U.S. Navy Climate Change Roadmap



Extreme weather events pose a major threat to domestic military bases. Hurricane Katrina destroyed 95% of Keesler Air Force Base in Mississippi.

Climate refugees, dislocated by famines, droughts, water shortages, and natural disasters pose a threat to international stability and the U.S.’s national security.

The U.S. Navy is proactively planning for climate change and developed a “Climate Change Roadmap” in 2010 outlining their approach to adaptation and preparation.

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