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DOD Exercise Highlights Need to Address Climate Change, Its Impacts

DOD Exercise Highlights Need to Address Climate Change, Its Impacts

The Defense Department's first climate and environmental security "tabletop" exercise, dubbed Elliptic Thunder, highlighted the growing security threats posed by climate and environmental change, while illustrating that prevention activities today are essential to avoiding dire consequences in the future, Annalise Blum, an American Association for the Advancement of Science policy fellow in Office of the Secretary of Defense for Policy's Office of Stability and Humanitarian Affairs said.

Elliptic Thunder, which was co-sponsored by the Office of Stability and Humanitarian Affairs and the Joint Staff J5, took place March 25. Based upon future climate, economic and population forecasts, the exercise was set in East Africa in a notional future in which climate change had gradually disrupted natural systems, weakening several states in the region and increasing the risk of climate-driven extreme events. A combination of floods, droughts, and cyclones led to shortages of food, water, and energy — causing large-scale instability and migration. This instability expanded opportunities for extremist groups and strategic rivals to gain influence with consequences for U.S. national security and defense objectives.

Adam Mausner, senior policy advisor in SHA, noted that the exercise made clear that climate change is a national security issue, and should be tackled with the same urgency and resourcing as other major threats to our country. "Additionally, high-end conventional combat capabilities were of little use in the scenario, as our adversaries instead engaged in irregular warfare to gain advantage," he said.

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