Friday, October 17, 2014

US Department of Defense: Climate Change will intensify the challenges of global instability...

Sou | 6:13 PM Go to the first of 23 comments. Add a comment

"Climate change will affect the Department of Defense's ability to defend the Nation and poses immediate risks to U.S. national security."

US Department of Defense, October 2014.

In a case of denialists linking to denialists linking to denialists linking to denialists... A retweet by Anthony Watts alerted me to an article at Climate Depot, which was a repost of an article by the HockeySchtick, which was a repost of an irrational and scatty article at the Wall Street Journal.

From there I went to Google, which took me to a climate website, Bellona.org, which linked to a climate change plan from the US Department of Defense.

2014 Climate Adaptation Roadmap

The US Department of Defense has released its 2014 Climate Adaptation Roadmap. It lists three goals:
  • Goal 1: Identify and assess the effects of climate change on the Department. 
  • Goal 2: Integrate climate change considerations across the Department and manage associated risks. 
  • Goal 3: Collaborate with internal and external stakeholders on climate change challenges. 

The document lists four lines of effort to support those three goals:
  1. Plans and Operations include the activities dedicated to preparing for and carrying out the full range of military operations. Also included are the operating environments in the air, on land, and at sea, at home and abroad, that shape the development of plans and execution of operations. 
  2. Training and Testing are critical to maintaining a capable and ready Force in the face of a rapidly changing strategic setting. Access to land, air, and sea space that replicate the operational environment for training and testing is essential to readiness. 
  3. Built and Natural Infrastructure are both necessary for successful mission preparedness and readiness. While built infrastructure serves as the staging platform for the Department’s national defense and humanitarian missions, natural infrastructure also supports military combat readiness by providing realistic combat conditions and vital resources to personnel.
  4. Acquisition and Supply Chain include the full range of developing, acquiring, fielding, and sustaining equipment and services and leveraging technologies and capabilities to meet the Department’s current and future needs, including requirements analysis. 

Climate change multiplies threats

The introduction to the report states that the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty and conflict will be intensified by climate change:
Among the future trends that will impact our national security is climate change. Rising global temperatures, changing precipitation patterns, climbing sea levels, and more extreme weather events will intensify the challenges of global instability, hunger, poverty, and conflict. They will likely lead to food and water shortages, pandemic disease, disputes over refugees and resources, and destruction by natural disasters in regions across the globe.
In our defense strategy, we refer to climate change as a “threat multiplier” because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.
A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions. The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities, and provide humanitarian assistance and disaster relief in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters. Our coastal installations are vulnerable to rising sea levels and increased flooding, while droughts, wildfires, and more extreme temperatures could threaten many of our training activities. Our supply chains could be impacted, and we will need to ensure our critical equipment works under more extreme weather conditions. Weather has always affected military operations, and as the climate changes, the way we execute operations may be altered or constrained.
While scientists are converging toward consensus on future climate projections, uncertainty remains. But this cannot be an excuse for delaying action. Every day, our military deals with global uncertainty. Our planners know that, as military strategist Carl von Clausewitz wrote, “all action must, to a certain extent, be planned in a mere twilight.” 

You can download the DoD document here. It's quite short - only twenty pages.


  1. The right wing in the US has typically treated the military as a group which can do no wrong (in contrast with the rest of government, which can never do anything right). With so much overlap between the deniers and right-wing fanatics, I'm really curious how the deniers will comment on reports like this (my guess: they'll say it was pushed on them by their liberal civilian overlords). Last I heard (wish I had a reference), there was a move in Congress to prohibit the Defense Department from studying or commenting on climate change. -- Dennis

    1. I suspect that the house will stage a hearing soon enough, one that berates the portion of the Pentagon which works on the analysis of climate change as a threat multiplier. Back in May they had an amendment to a spending bill which was supposed to prevent the Pentagon from spending any money of climate change preparations.

    2. I think Rattus is right. We can look to presidential elections in the US for examples of the infinitely elastic and adaptable ability of ideological romantics here to build a story leading to an easy, comfortably conformist decision. John McCain and Sarah Palin somehow were made to fit together inside the same voter skulls, a feat seemingly impossible until it happened.

      So the story will be along the general lines of "this is just ambitious officers responding to suggestion from Obama political appointees," a kind of magic cognitive incantation that can engulf and hide any number of uncomfortable facts no matter how large or pointy.

    3. McCarthy's fall from grace was swift when he turned on the US Army. Just saying :)

  2. Judith Curry's response to the Pentagon?

    She thinks they are "deniers."

    " I would call them extreme weather deniers – they seem to be in denial that these are caused naturally."

    Judith Curry's comment

    [Sou: I've replaced the direct link with link to comment in archived web page]

    1. Judith is talking through her hat again. It's a nonsense comment.

      She can't have read the New York Times article let alone the DoD planning document. It was not solely focused on extreme events. It was about climate change in general and what is happening now and what will happen in the future as a result, and how DoD is planning to ready itself for this.

      Deniers focus on extreme events because they are, by definition, rare. Therefore it is difficult to attribute between AGW and random chance (natural variation) - but not impossible eg with extreme heat events. I have to add, too, much of what used to be considered extreme in the past isn't extreme any more and will be even less so in the future - as new normal overtakes new normal overtakes new normal.

  3. Rattus -

    It will be interesting to watch Republican legislators turn themselves in to pretzels as out of one side of their mouth they call Democrats terrorist appeasers for not supporting the Pentagon's risk assessments that call for military funding for weapons, and then turn around to denounce the Pentagon's risk assessment calling for spending to address climate change.

    1. You're right, Joshua. The conservatives are already doing that. They've decided they know better than the military about what poses threats. At the moment it's ISIS/ISIL or whatever. Conservatives think they can pick and choose. It's all black and white. If there is one threat there cannot be any other threat - in their limited mind.

      The DoD risk assessment of climate change is in the context of civil unrest and wars, and ongoing military activities, and how climate change affects military installations, in addition to how armed forces are called upon to assist in humanitarian efforts. It's across the board.

  4. 2:50 AM anonymous -

    ==> "I'm really curious how the deniers will comment on reports like this..."

    Dude. It seems that you are mistakenly thinking that there's any reason they will be troubled by hypocrisy.

  5. "US Department of Defense: Climate Change will intensify the challenges of global instability"

    I am amazed that this gets any credibility at all.

    The whole organization's level of funding and very existence depends upon sounding the alarm bells over the next potential enemy and the next great crisis.

    They were wrong on Vietnam, they were wrong on Afghanistan, they were wrong on Iraq, they are wrong on Iran, they are wrong on Palestine, they are wrong on Syrian rebels...... etc...etc...etc...

    But you think they might have this one right?

    1. Most wars are political decisions, aren't they? Eg I always thought that the Iraq invasion was mainly Cheney egging on Bush. It wasn't supported by intelligence reports AFAIK.

      As to whether Chuck Hagel is a better SecDef than his predecessors, time will tell I guess. The advisory committee on climate change has representation from all the defense services.

      The four phenomena identified in the DoD plan aren't the subject of any scientific debate. They are already happening. The plan lists them as:

      - Rising global temperatures - the evidence for that is plain and clear

      - Changing precipitation patterns - that's already happening

      - Increasing frequency or intensity of extreme weather events - some has already been observed

      - Rising sea levels and associated storm surge. Sea levels are rising, meaning storm surges are worse. This will continue as the ice continues to melt.

    2. Rising temperatures, yes and recent.
      Rising sea levels, yes and longer term.

      But surely from a scientific observational viewpoint very little can be said regarding changes in frequency or intensity of extreme weather events, or of changes in precipitation patterns. I am glad you did not mention frequency/intensity of wildfires; which is possibly the worst metric ever employed for any purpose.

    3. The literature includes papers showing heat waves, drought and floods influenced by human-caused warming. Do you need references or can you look it up yourself? Some of this has been discussed here at HotWhopper on various occasions. For example.



      Then there are the annual BAMS supplements on extreme events. Here is a link to the latest:


      Re wildfires, you are probably confusing fire management and response with the increasingly dangerous fire risk days. Wildfires are and will continue to be a greater threat, especially in places like south eastern Australia, California and probably Greece and Spain, among other places. I agree it's difficult to extricate some things about wildfires, but catastrophic fire danger days is one metric that has been used.


      Where I live we've had three huge fires since 2003, burning probably a larger area than was burnt in the preceding century.

      I've written about fires before too. For example:


    4. Thanks for the links Sou. I have read up on these topics quite frequently, we have all debated them quite frequently, and my position (having sought statistical differences between multiple treatments/situations in other fields) remains that stating a certain series of weather events significantly differs from an earlier series of weather events at this stage of the science is really stretching statistical credibility to the absolute limit.

      Taking only the first, the Swain/Diffenbaugh paper; They have the required data back only to 1948, then rely on applying statistical techniques to modelling results.

      The team first assessed the rarity of the Triple R in the context of the 20th-century historical record. They found that the combined persistence and intensity of the Triple R in 2013 was unrivaled by any event since 1948, which is when comprehensive information about the circulation of the atmosphere is first available.

      To more directly address the question of whether climate change played a role in the probability of the 2013 event, [...the team..] .....[and] ... Rajaratnam and his graduate students ...[...]... applied advanced statistical techniques to a large suite of climate model simulations.

      Whereas Cook et al. 2014 goes on to point out that;

      Regional droughts are common in North America, but pan-continental droughts extending across multiple regions, including the 2012 event, are rare relative to single-region events.

      Here, the tree-ring-derived North American Drought Atlas is used to investigate drought variability in four regions over the last millennium, focusing on pan-continental droughts. During the Medieval Climate Anomaly (MCA), the central plains (CP), Southwest (SW), and Southeast (SE) regions experienced drier conditions and increased occurrence of droughts and the Northwest (NW) experienced several extended pluvials. Enhanced MCA aridity in the SW and CP manifested as multidecadal megadroughts. Notably, megadroughts in these regions differed in their timing and persistence, suggesting that they represent regional events influenced by local dynamics rather than a unified, continental-scale phenomena. There is no trend in pan-continental drought occurrence, defined as synchronous droughts in three or more regions. .....[.....].... While relatively rare, pan-continental droughts are present in the paleo record and are linked to defined modes of climate variability, implying the potential for seasonal predictability.

      Assuming stable drought teleconnections, these events will remain an important feature of future North American hydroclimate, possibly increasing in their severity in step with other expected hydroclimate responses to increased greenhouse gas forcing..

      Cook, B.I., J.E. Smerdon, R. Seager, and E.R. Cook, 2014: Pan-continental droughts in North America over the last millennium. J. Climate, 27, no. 1, 383-397, doi:10.1175/JCLI-D-13-00100

    5. I don't know what point you're trying to make, marke. You disputed that there was any science to support AGW influence on extreme events. I gave you a number of examples. There are many more. You decided you weren't satisfied with just one of them, though it looks as if your dissatisfaction is on spurious grounds.

      Whatever - you can't turn around and say there is very little said about extreme events on the strength of you not liking one of the papers I referred to, when there are more and more papers appearing every year. And AGW has barely even made itself felt yet. Just wait another decade or two.

    6. marke

      But surely from a scientific observational viewpoint very little can be said regarding changes in frequency or intensity of extreme weather events

      See Hansen, Sato & Ruedy (2012):

      “Climate dice,” describing the chance of unusually warm or cool seasons, have become more and more “loaded” in the past 30 y, coincident with rapid global warming. The distribution of seasonal mean temperature anomalies has shifted toward higher temperatures and the range of anomalies has increased. An important change is the emergence of a category of summertime extremely hot outliers, more than three standard deviations (3σ) warmer than the climatology of the 1951–1980 base period. This hot extreme, which covered much less than 1% of Earth’s surface during the base period, now typically covers about 10% of the land area. It follows that we can state, with a high degree of confidence, that extreme anomalies such as those in Texas and Oklahoma in 2011 and Moscow in 2010 were a consequence of global warming because their likelihood in the absence of global warming was exceedingly small. We discuss practical implications of this substantial, growing, climate change.

      It looks like this.

      But of course extreme summer heat events have no impact on agricultural productivity and cannot decrease global food supply security and so increase geopolitical tensions later this century.

      * * *

      A warmer troposphere will hold more water (basic indisputable fact #1). Warmer surface temperatures increase evaporation (basic indisputable fact #2). This will speed up the hydrological cycle by increasing the frequency of intense precipitation events (BIF #3). Expanding Hadley cells Zhou et al. (2011); Johanson & Fu (2009)will increasingly displace temperate mid-latitude precipitation polewards (BIF#4).

      And of course this will have no impact on NH agriculture and so on global food security of supply and so on geopolitical tensions later this century.

      IMO the military analysts are behaving rationally and you are in denial.

  6. From the action in the Guardian comment section on this story, the main line of defense by the American right -- or rather, far right, but I repeat myself -- is that the Pentagon has been ordered to gin up this threat by their eeeevil overlords in the Obama adminstration.

  7. Thanks Sou, BBD.

    My point is; it (the data) is all about the heat. If one accepts the instrument temperature record as it now stands, and paleotemp records as they now stand, and as they mesh with the instrument record, then yes, we have data showing warming.

    But, the expected, and modeled other effects are sparse in terms of data.

    This reference you provided sums it up well, with a neat little 'shadowed paragraph' for each chapter: http://www2.ametsoc.org/ams/index.cfm/publications/bulletin-of-the-american-meteorological-society-bams/explaining-extreme-events-of-2013-from-a-climate-perspective/

    There are 22 chapters each devoted to a different natural disaster, and only those which are direct measures of temperature (4 chapters on Australian heat waves, one each on Korean, Japanese, Central China, Western Europe heat waves), are firmly attributed to global warming/climate change. A chapter on NZ drought gets a "evidence from a number of models suggests that the meteorological drivers were more favorable for drought as a result of anthropogenic climate change.."

    While for the rest, including Californian droughts, the phrases "...trends did not contribute substantially ... no appreciable contribution ...implications...remain uncertain..." crop up.

    We have no strong statements that blizzards, extreme snow accumulations, severe precipitation events, floods etc were worsened directly due to AGW, several statement along the line of "...large simulation ensembles show no evidence that climate change made heavy precipitation in the upper Danube and Elbe basins in May–June, such as observed in 2013, more likely..." and several clear statements that they would be expected to have a reduced chance or occurring."The UK cold Spring of 2013: ....[warming] ...reduced the odds of an extremely cold UK spring in 2013 at least 30 times...

    As Sou says, "AGW has barely even made itself felt yet".

    We are still heavily relying on theorized outcomes, yet speak of them as if they are occurring.

    1. Give us a break, marke. "They" are already occurring. 2010-11 floods around the world - they happened. The heat waves of 2003 and 2010 did happen. California is in extreme drought. Australian temps have risen by 0.9C and we've had dreadful droughts and bushfires already.

      The science is solid enough to know that if action isn't taken, the climate will change and the consequences will be serious.

      Projections so far have been pretty well spot on. The world continues to heat up, the pH of bodies of water is dropping, sea and land ice is melting, fish stocks are moving and changing, water security in some areas is threatened, sea levels are rising. Put all that against a rapidly rising population and it would be utterly irresponsible to not take any action.

      If the world waits until the worst has already happened it will not only be extremely costly, it will be virtually impossible to go back to where we should have been. Unless you are relying on geo-engineering to suck CO2 out of the air.

      Almost all decisions made by governments and businesses are based on what is expected in the future. They don't wait until the future has happened and then hop in a time machine and go back to make a decision based on what they know the future will be.

      You yourself make a multitude of decisions every day based on what you expect of a future state. People always make decisions despite not knowing the future - everything from going to work on the expectation you're job is still there, to accepting an invitation to a social gathering based on an expectation that social gathering will be held and that you'll not have a conflicting engagements, to saving for retirement, to choosing a partner (in life or business), to having children, to committing to a mortgage etc etc.

      Governments take action all the time on an expected range of future possibilities - whether it be education, health, law and order, defence, immigration, labour market, technological change, food demand and supply etc etc.

      Businesses do the same, when planning manufacturing, sales, service delivery and associated investments, advertising, ordering of supplies, recruitment.

      Most of these decisions are taken in an environment of much less certainty than exists for climate.

      You are sounding like a science denier if not disinformer of the "it's all to uncertain" "wait until after it happens" "adapt don't mitigate" "wait until it's too late to do anything" type.

      Let me guess. You have never worked as an actuary.

    2. marke

      My point is; it (the data) is all about the heat. If one accepts the instrument temperature record as it now stands, and paleotemp records as they now stand, and as they mesh with the instrument record, then yes, we have data showing warming.

      But, the expected, and modeled other effects are sparse in terms of data.

      It's *all* about basic physics. Everything predicted as warming continues is an inevitable outcome of basic physics. The accelerating hydrological cycle, the expansion of the Hadley Cells and poleward displacement of rainfall patterns, the drying of continental interiors, the increasing frequency and severity of heatwaves - all of it.

      If you accept that the warming is real and anthropogenically forced then you accept physics. So by definition you *must* accept that all the above will occur if the climate system heats up.

      That's where denial creeps in. And you do *not* get to whine about name-calling when you are denying basic physics.

  8. I guess we can only go in circles from here:

    Yes, weather/climate events did occur.
    Are they different in scale or frequency to those similar events which occurred in the past? Well, some, (at least) are not yet sure in most cases.

    Granted, governments have to operate off projections (I can still remember when they were called predictions, or forecasts.)

    I am not sure which label/type applies to me as I am not experienced in the labeling field. I have never spent much time thinking up labels for others whose viewpoints may differ from mine.

    And you are quite correct: I have never worked as an actuary.

    1. This is my take on prediction vs projection vs forecast FWIW. Others might differ.

      Predictions tend to be singular. Eg I predict that the ice sheets will continue to melt - no ifs or buts or provisos. The term isn't much used in business or science. It's usually reserved for stuff like astrology. Though in casual use (as opposed to specific jargon), anyone can call any judgement call on the future a "prediction". Each year people put in bids predicting the September extent of Arctic sea ice - but I regard that as casual useage, a bit like predicting the winner of a horse race (based on track record, health, competitors etc).

      Projections are usually dependent upon scenarios. Eg if we cut CO2 by 50% then a whole bunch of things are likely to happen. If we increase CO2 by 50% a whole other bunch of things will happen. In business there could be high growth scenarios, business as usual and low growth scenarios. Or different economic growth scenarios. Projections would be used for high level planning and decision-making. In business they could be used to inform decisions on growth strategies - organic growth vs growth through acquisition for example. In climate, what future climate would be for different economic, social, technological scenarios and particularly the associated atmospheric GHGs.

      Forecasts would normally be shorter term than projections and include quite detailed results. Forecasts are common in business planning. For example, sales and revenue forecasts could be up to five or at most ten years ahead (normally). They can be subject to caveats and what-if analysis. If they are, it's contained to fairly simple sensitivity analyses such as different rates of inflation, which would be applied to, say, inputs such as labour costs and cost of raw materials and unit price for products. I don't think scientists would use the term "forecast" as a general rule in scientific writing. They would use it in casual conversation like anyone else. One exception being meteorology, which uses the word "forecast" meaning expected/calculated weather for the next few days (or longer, for medium term weather forecasts). I don't know if the term is used in epidemiology - such as to describe an expected pattern of a pandemic in the near term.

    2. @marke
      I guess we can only go in circles from here:

      Hook it up to the energy grid. :)


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