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The Pentagon’s Guide to Overcoming Climate Change Denial



Those who actively deny that climate change is a scientifically-established reality have never really been able to square one simple fact: The nation’s military leadership is in unified agreement that climate change is real, and also that it poses a clear and present danger to the troops.

The Pentagon’s thinking is revealed plainly and publicly in its own 2014 Quadrennial Review, which features no fewer than eight direct, specific, and unambiguous evaluations of climate change as it relates to geopolitics and military strategy. Forget the climatologists, for a second, ye of little faith in the scientific method, and let the military explain, in its own words, verbatim, what climate change is, and why we should be very worried about it.

Here, let’s allow the Pentagon to teach us about climate change:

  1. 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, including growing, urbanizing, more affluent populations, and substantial economic growth in India, China, Brazil, and other nations, will devastate homes, land, and infrastructure.
  2. Climate change may exacerbate water scarcity and lead to sharp increases in food costs.
  3. 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.
  4. 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. Our actions to increase energy and water security, including investments in energy efficiency, new technologies, and renewable energy sources, will increase the resiliency of our installations and help mitigate these effects.

These are not the words of some bowtie-wearing liberal college professor, or the scolding of a limelight-hogging politician, and it is not an op-ed from an increasingly frustrated climate scientist. These are the conclusions of cold, hard analysis from the military’s top strategists. And you respect the military’s top strategists, right? So respect this: The Pentagon has concluded that climate change will likely breed more terrorism, more unrest, and more conflict.

But wait, you might say, there are a lot of ‘may’s and ‘can’s in there; it doesn’t mean the military actually is taking it seriously. To that, observe its four-point plan of actively coping with and adapting its missions to the changing climate:

  1. The Department will employ creative ways to address the impact of climate change, which will continue to affect the operating environment and the roles and missions that U.S. Armed Forces undertake.
  2. The Department will remain ready to operate in a changing environment amid the challenges of climate change and environmental damage. We have increased our preparedness for the consequences of environmental damage and continue to seek to mitigate these risks while taking advantage of opportunities. The Department’s operational readiness hinges on unimpeded access to land, air, and sea training and test space.
  3. Consequently, we will complete a comprehensive assessment of all installations to assess the potential impacts of climate change on our missions and operational resiliency, and develop and implement plans to adapt as required.
  4. 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. We are developing new policies, strategies, and plans, including the Department’s Arctic Strategy and our work in building humanitarian assistance and disaster response capabilities, both within the Department and with our allies and partners.

The military not only believes in climate change, but it believes that it warrants active mitigation, that it is a “threat multiplier,” a terrorist incubator, and an all around stressor to global stability. It believes in taking action.

In other words, saying “I don’t believe in climate change” and “I support the troops” officially requires a fair bit of cognitive dissonance.