Ignoring Climate Change’s Effects on our Military Endangers Our Troops

The House has just passed an amendment to the National Defense Authorization bill to not allow the Department of Defense to implement any of the results of any US or international climate change studies.  The vote was largely along party lines, with Republicans backing the amendment.

First of all, this inhibits defense planning in considering conflicts arising from climate change.  This is very important, for example, in the defense of Israel, or other parts of the Middle East, where the next war is considered to be one over water scarcity, not oil.  Knowing when and where water scarcity will arise will allow us to find equitable negotiated solutions, as well as to support building water infrastructure to prevent very costly conflicts and refugee or aid situations.  It inhibits forecasting the effects on harbors from sea level rise, and projecting projects and funds to adapt to it.  The use of spy satellites and drone warfare depends on clear skies, and we have to know what the future holds for cloud cover in various theatres of operation.  The decision whether to invade a country and equip and supply our forces in a country like Iraq which is desert and has very hot and dry summers would be affected by climate projections.

Second, looking at military history shows the importance of the climate in both long term strategy and short term battles.  The rise of US weather prediction by computers owes a lot to the necessity of planning a good period and day for the D-day invasion.  The defeat of the Spanish Armada in 1588 was due to a storm in the English Channel forcing the Spanish Armada North around England.  When it returned to the English Channel it was essentially demolished.  The defeat of Napoleon at Waterloo in 1815 in Belgium was because the field was too wet for a prompt attack, and Napoleon was later defeated there by Prussian reinforcements to the Duke of Wellington’s forces.

Napoleon’s defeat in attacking Russia was due to the cold and long Russian winter, and the large distance that the Russians were able to retreat.  Hitler’s defeat in his invasion of Russia was similar, with tanks being bogged down in mud, and soldiers suffering from frostbite.  Hitler’s defeat in the Battle of the Bulge came when clearing weather allowed US forces to attack German tanks from the air.

It is very short-sighted for the Republicans in the House to leave the US Military unprepared for strategic planning and fighting using the best scientific assessments of climate.

About Dennis SILVERMAN

I am a retired Professor of Physics and Astronomy at U C Irvine. For a decade I have been active in learning about energy and the environment, and in lecturing and attending classes at the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute (OLLI) at UC Irvine.
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