Jon White – From the President’s Office: 10-3-2016

2016-10-03T16:31:27+00:00 October 3, 2016|

Jon White, President of Ocean Leadership

Last week, in conjunction with COL member ARCUS, Ocean Leadership (and a number of other organizations) co-hosted an event to engage the international community of Arctic stakeholders around the theme “Arctic Science as a Vehicle for STEM Education and Citizen Empowerment.” This was a side meeting to the first-ever White House Arctic Science Ministerial. The Ministerial, which brought together delegations from 25 governments, focused on four themes: how to respond to Arctic-science challenges, strengthening Arctic observations and data sharing, expanding regional resilience, and incorporating Arctic science in STEM education. I’m happy to see both our member organizations and government leaders working to understand the changing Arctic, especially since we know that region is experiencing dramatic shifts that will have global impacts on climate, precipitation patterns, and sea level rise.

This ministerial isn’t the first step government leaders have taken to understand local, regional, and global impacts of climate change. A few weeks ago, President Obama issued a memo that establishes a policy and provides practical guidance to consider the impacts of climate change in the development of national security-related doctrine, policies, and plans. The memo is a historic step in addressing national security implications of our changing climate, which the president said “affect[s] economic prosperity, public health and safety, and international stability.” The memo was released along with a National Intelligence Council report that identifies pathways through which climate change will likely pose national security challenges in the next two decades. This report specifically discusses national security concerns in the Arctic, including problems associated with thawing permafrost, unresolved maritime boundary claims, military posturing, and economic activity that could increase as warming temperatures open up new passageways.  
Along these lines, I was asked last Friday to join a group of national and local press representatives to tour the world’s largest Navy base and surrounding area in Norfolk, Virginia to consider the ongoing and future impacts of climate change – especially sea-level rise. Norfolk was selected by the White House a couple of years ago as a pilot project to develop a regional “whole of government” and “whole of community” approach to resiliency. DoD (specifically the Navy) has been working with local and state leaders and private entities to develop a long-term plan to address the impacts of sea-level rise in the Hampton Roads area. This pilot project has been spearheaded by the Navy and Old Dominion University (a COL member). This low-lying area is especially vulnerable to sea level rise due to ongoing coastal subsidence (land sinking) in addition to global sea level rise. As indicated by the long-standing NOAA tide gauge at Sewell’s Point on the Naval base, relative sea level there has risen about 18 inches in the past century while the global sea level has only risen approximately eight inches. There is a crucial need for short- and long-term planning by “all hands on deck” in the Norfolk area to ensure the right decisions are made and actions, based on solid ocean and climate science, are taken in a timely manner. The project was highlighted in our 2016 Public Policy Forum, and there will be a follow-on panel on Oct 19 here in DC where I will join several government representatives to discuss the results of this project and future, broader implications. Stay tuned for details.

RADM Jonathan W. White, USN (ret.); M.S.
President and CEO
Consortium for Ocean Leadership

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