Understanding climate change risks to the United States military
Gaulin, Christopher Lee
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The Department of Defense (DoD) has acknowledged climate change as a risk national security. Ongoing impacts include the loss of training and operational sites to climate hazards. Operationally, conflict and natural disasters around the world have been exacerbated by increasing heat, desertification, and flooding. Increasing average temperatures, the flagship issue of climate change, is a significant contributor to heat-illness in military personnel. This project explores the relationship between climate change and the U.S. military, ongoing efforts to evaluate and address the risk, and the overall impacts on training readiness. Measuring climate related vulnerability is a complex process. For the DoD to apply a common framework across a vast network of fundamentally different sites is an especially wicked problem. I recommend a tiered approach to iteratively narrow the focus and resources allocated to the most mission critical and at-risk sites. The process begins with a screening survey, continues to in-depth site-specific impact assessments, and ends with implementation of technical and institutional adaptations. Recent efforts by the DoD have not fully executed this process and resulting reports are resultingly insufficient. I identify a lack of consideration for heat stress on servicemembers. Using historical site data and projections, I determine that the risk of heat-illness and lost training time will increase. Leaders can use this data to plan risk mitigation efforts through changing training locations, timing, or control measures. The military must continue to adapt and overcome challenges of the coming century by using available scientific information to reduce risk during the planning process.