While the establishment of the U.S. Space Force stole the spotlight, the new $738 million defense spending bill signed by President Trump also ordered the military to prepare for the worsening effects of climate change.
The Department of Defense was directed to develop tools for measuring risks associated with climate change and remove institutional barriers that inhibit efforts to safeguard military installations against severe weather. The department will also be required to consider climate risks when planning new facilities.
The orders follow several climate-related disasters that hit U.S military bases, exposing the military’s vulnerability to extreme weather and raising concerns about national security. For instance, more than 130 structures at Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force base were destroyed by floods earlier this year. The base is the headquarters of the U.S. Strategic Command, which oversees the Pentagon’s nuclear deterrence and global strike capabilities.
“The Department of Defense is precariously unprepared for the national security implications of climate change-induced global security challenges,” said a U.S. Army War College report released in July. The authors said that inaction by the U.S. military to prepare for climate change may lead to a potential collapse of the power grid, epidemics, and foreign interventions triggered by climate-related events.
The federal government was “perceived to be an irresponsible actor in the global environment,” citing President Trump’s decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, the War College report said. The Trump administration also has been reviewing and rolling back regulations that it claims impede economic development and raise costs for producers.
“It is useful to remind ourselves regularly of the capacity of human beings to persist in stupid beliefs in the face of significant, contradictory evidence,” the War College report said.
- The Defense Department oversees a global real-estate portfolio estimated to have a $1.2 trillion replacement value, according to the U.S. Government Accountability Office.
- The defense bill also established an interagency research and development program to explore technologies that would convert carbon dioxide in the atmosphere into militarily useful products such as fuel.
- The space force — which has been a reliable source of applause lines at Trump’s rallies, is the first new military service since the Air Force was spun off from the Army in 1947.
- In March, the U.S. Navy Task Force Climate Change was shut down. The initiative, begun under President Obama, was designed to prepare naval leadership for worldwide changes in sea levels, melting ice sheets and ocean temperatures.