The Day – Pentagon: Climate change harms the US military
Climate change is already affecting the combat readiness of the US military and providing opportunities for China to take advantage of it, Pentagon official No. 2 said Friday.
“Climate change and extreme weather events caused by climate change affect everything from the number of days we can fly and exercise in the air,” to the ability to use military facilities when sea levels rise or drought sets in, Kathleen Hicks, the assistant defense secretary, said in an interview with presenter Joe Mathieu on Bloomberg Radio’s “Sound On” show.
Climate change could affect the military’s fuel lines and even the ability of its planes to “hang around in the air,” she said.
Hicks commented after the Pentagon released a new climate risk analysis warning of “deteriorating effects” on US national security, including the risk that China will attempt to exploit climate threats in the Indo-Pacific region.
Hicks said that in areas like the Arctic, “we’re starting to see a lot more competition from Russia and China in and around strategic minerals and strategic reserves and resources.” She said it was necessary to protect scientific missions in these areas and to manage potential “conflicts and misjudgments” with China and Russia.
Climate change is also increasing the use of the military in disaster and humanitarian aid missions abroad and domestically in the United States, Hicks said. She cited an increase in the National Guard’s deployment in recent years to combat threats such as year-round wildfires in the United States
Hicks said the Department of Defense is working to reduce its own carbon footprint from the fuel it buys through the use of planes, tanks and military facilities. She said the use of microgrids and charging stations for electric vehicles would be part of the solution.
“We’re building the 2023 budget to beat the cost,” to reduce the carbon footprint, Hicks said. “We make sure our troops are trained and equipped to operate in extreme conditions and have the correct test equipment for climate impacts,” she said. “We make sure that we have a resilient infrastructure, that our supply chain is resilient and innovative.”
Hicks is the first woman to serve as assistant secretary of defense. Previously, she led President Joe Biden’s Pentagon Transition Team and worked as a national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. From 2009 to 2012 she was Deputy Undersecretary of State for Defense for Strategy, Plans and Armed Forces and from 2012-2013 Deputy Undersecretary of State for Defense Policy.