The Pentagon’s New Climate Change Report Is Missing Some Important Details

2019-05-01T16:19:37+00:00 January 25, 2019|

(DoD photo by Lt. Greg Linderman, U.S. Navy/Released)

The entire Marine Corps, for instance.

(From Mother Jones/By Dan Spinelli)

Less than two months after President Donald Trump said he did not believe a federal report outlining the existential threat of man-made climate change, the Defense Department has released its own report on how to manage the “effects of a changing climate.”

As part of the defense spending bill for fiscal year 2018, the Pentagon was asked to create “a list of the ten most vulnerable military installations within each service” in addition to “combatant commander requirements resulting from climate change over the next 20 years.” The 22-page report begins with 11 words that contradict the commander in chief’s description of climate change as a “very expensive” hoax. It states, “The effects of a changing climate are a national security issue.” Those lines comprise “the strongest part of the report,” retired naval officer David Titley, who once headed the Navy’s Task Force on Climate Change, tells Mother Jones in an email. But the rest, he says, “is disappointing, primarily because it does not answer the key questions Congress raised.”


Even as Defense officials have become more careful with their rhetoric, they have actually increased their efforts to account for the effect of climate change in certain crucial ways. A warming Arctic has created new opportunities for conflict with Russia and China, something the Navy has become more conscious of in internal strategic guidance. In a recent piece about the Pentagon’s slow efforts to prepare for climate change, Jonathan White, who succeeded Titley as task force director, told Mother Jones, “Tying things to climate change could invite a scrutiny that was undesired.”

If anything, the Pentagon’s reluctance to deal in specifics may lead to more work for the department down the line. Rep. Langevin noted, “I expect the Department to reissue a report that meets its statutory mandate and rigorously confronts the realities of our warming planet.”

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Related Coverage:  Elizabeth Warren Raises the Pressure on the Military to Take Climate Change Seriously (Mother Jones  April 16, 2019)