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Climate change is a risk to national security, the Pentagon says

Climate change is a risk to national security, the Pentagon says

The Department of Defense says climate change is already challenging U.S. national security in concrete ways.

In a report last week, the Pentagon found that "increasing temperatures; changing precipitation patterns; and more frequent, intense, and unpredictable extreme weather conditions caused by climate change are exacerbating existing risks" for the U.S.

For example, recent extreme weather has cost billions in damages to U.S. military installations, including Tyndall Air Force Base and Marine Corps Base Camp Lejeune.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks tells NPR that Congress should be paying attention as the Biden administration tries to put together a clean energy plan that Sen. Joe Manchin will support. The Democrat from West Virginia stymied an earlier effort.

"We need to have the rest of the government with us. We can't do it just here at DOD," she tells Morning Edition.

Climate change is really increasing the number and frequency of missions that we're executing here at DOD. Let's look at firefighting. Severe drought has led to increasing fire seasons, lengthening of fire seasons. It's to the point where our National Guard bureau chief has started to talk about fire season becoming fire year. And in fact, we have in the last five years gone from about 14,000 personnel days for U.S. National Guard members to, in 2021, about 176,000 person days spent just on firefighting.

You can also think about the increasing openness of the Arctic region. China and Russia and lots of countries are up there now in the Arctic and creating a new geopolitical space that didn't used to exist — space for competition in an area that we have to make sure we're monitoring. Both for search and rescue — just for simple commercial fleets that are going through there where we're protecting freedom of the seas. That increases mission space for us.
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