Two public events involving climate change and national defense coincided this week. The first involves Secretary of Defense Hagel and USAID Administrator Shah highlighting climate change's role in increasing regional political instability and the need for humanitarian assistance and disaster relief resources. The second involves the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) issuing its Fifth Assessment Report which documents changes that have already resulted from climate change and paints a dismal picture of the future:
Impacts from recent climate-related extremes, such as heat waves, droughts, floods, cyclones, and wildfires, reveal significant vulnerability and exposure of some ecosystems and many human systems to current climate variability .... Impacts of such climate-related extremes include alteration of ecosystems, disruption of food production and water supply, damage to infrastructure and settlements, morbidity and mortality, and consequences for mental health and human well-being. For countries at all levels of development, these impacts are consistent with a significant lack of preparedness for current climate variability in some sectors.
Whether this emphasis will go beyond the bounds of military and commercial planners has, however, yet to be seen.
Associate General Counsel (Installations, Energy and Environment)
U.S. Air Force