Ask The Military

“Climate Change will affect the Department of Defense’s ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security.”
– Department of Defense, “Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap”, October 2014

The Pentagon has identified climate change as an immediate threat to national security. Military leaders have assessed the science and concluded that rising seas, longer droughts, melting ice caps, and other climate change impacts could empower America’s enemies while jeopardizing our ability to respond to their provocations.(1),(2)

“I came . . . from being a hardcore skeptic on climate change to one who believes this is one of the preeminent challenges of our century.”
– Rear Admiral David Titley, 2010

Russia’s military aggression in the Arctic


Arctic sea ice levels have reached record lows.(3) Previously inaccessible shipping lanes are increasingly open. And the rich mineral resources in the Arctic sea bed could soon be accessible.

“Climate change is gradually opening up the waters of the Arctic . . . (creating) potential sources of competition and conflict for access and natural resources.”
– U.S. Marines, Navy, and Coast Guard, “A Cooperative Strategy for 21st Century Seapower”, October 2007.

Already, Russia is making an aggressive play to claim this territory for itself. Russian commandos have been training for Arctic missions, and the Russian military opened an Arctic command center in November 2014.(4) Russia has even begun building its first military icebreaker in five decades to ferry troops between Arctic bases.(5)


The U.S. military is preparing to counter Russia’s aggression. U.S. troops have begun training for Arctic warfare. Navy leaders are considering opening an Arctic port and mobile base.(6)

“There are worrying signs that climate change will create serious risks to stability in our own hemisphere.”
– Former Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, October 2014

Straining already stretched military resources
Climate change is already damaging American military infrastructure and disrupting operations.

“Climate change is a national security challenge with strategic implications for the Navy . . . Climate change is affecting, and will continue to affect, U.S. military installations and access to natural resources worldwide.”
– U.S. Navy, “Navy Climate Change Roadmap”, 2010

Rising sea levels, for example, have compromised naval bases, missile warning systems, and other vital military infrastructure.

“At one radar early warning installation, 40 feet of shoreline has been lost as a result of erosion… According to installation officials, daily operations at these types of remote radar installations are at risk… Air Force headquarters officials noted that if one or more of these sites is not operational, there is a risk that the DOD early warning system will operate with diminished functionality.”
– Government Accountability Office’s “Climate Change Adaptation”

A U.S. Government Accountability Office report discovered that extreme weather — associated with climate change — was having an effect on troops’ missions in more than half of the military areas it examined.(7)

“At 8 out of 15 locations we visited or contacted, 22 officials stated that they had observed rising temperatures and associated potential impacts or mission vulnerabilities.”
– Government Accountability Office.(8)

Coastal bases aren’t the only installations suffering the effects of climate change. As the Department of Defense notes, hotter weather means more frequent droughts and dust, which can damage vital equipment.(9),(10) For instance, M4 carbines – a main rifle used by U.S. troops in Iraq and Afghanistan — jammed almost once every 68 rounds during a recent firing test in severe dust conditions.(11)


Those jams cost American lives.(12) One of the most publicized events of the Iraq War — the ambush of a U.S. Army convoy and capture of Private First Class Jessica Lynch and several other soldiers — was made even more dire after troops’ weapons repeatedly jammed from dusty conditions.(13)

Military leaders refuse to be caught off guard. That’s why they’ve commissioned a survey of more than 7,000 bases and facilities worldwide to see exactly how climate change could heighten vulnerabilities at each installation.(14)

Sowing the seeds of terrorism
Climate change is creating the perfect environment — for terrorists. Hotter temperatures, heavier downpours, and more frequent droughts risk crop failures. Extreme weather events can displace thousands. According to top officials and agencies, the resulting economic and political turmoil can destabilize governments and provide more fuel for terrorists’ ideological fire.

“Many developing and fragile states . . . face increasing strains from resource constraints and climate change, pitting different tribal and ethnic groups against one another . . .”
National Intelligence Council (conducts long term planning for the CIA)(15)

According to political analysts, climate change has already helped spark violent conflict.(16 Severe drought conditions were partly responsible for Syria’s civil war — which led to the rise of the Islamic State terrorist group.(17),(18)

“Projected climate change will . . . foster the conditions for internal conflicts, extremism, and movement toward increased authoritarianism and radical ideologies.”
– 16 retired U.S. generals and admirals of the CNA Military Advisory Board(19)


Top military brass aren’t skeptical of climate change. They’ve seen its effects first hand. And they’re adapting to ensure that America’s armed forces are prepared to continue protecting and defending our nation.

“The Defense Department will keep pace with a changing climate, minimize its impacts on our missions, and continue to protect our national security”
– Chuck Hagel, Former Secretary of Defense, October 2014





  1. Department of Defense: DoD Releases Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  2. Under Secretary of Defense: Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  3. NASA: Arctic Sea Ice Lowest on Record
  4. Business Insider
  5. The Moscow Times
  6. Navy: US Arctic Roadmap
  7. S. Government Accountability Office
  8. S. Government Accountability Office
  9. USA Today
  10. Under Secretary of Defense: Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap
  11. com
  12. Fox News
  13. CNN
  14. Department of Defense: Military Must Be Ready for Climate Change, Hagel Says
  15. Office of the Director of National Intelligence
  16. National Geographic
  17. Washington Post
  18. Scientific American
  19. CNA Analysis and Solutions
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