This article was originally published on Harvard Business Review.


“The United States Navy operates on the front lines of climate change. It manages tens of billions of dollars of assets on every continent and on every ocean. Those assets—ships, submarines, aircraft, naval bases, and the technology that links everything together—take many years to design and build and then have decades of useful life. This means that the navy needs to understand now what sorts of missions it may be required to perform in 10, 20, or 30 years and what assets and infrastructure it will need to carry out those missions. Put another way, it needs to plan for the world that will exist at that time.

The Department of Defense is clear-eyed about the challenges climate change poses. “The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world,” the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review, issued in 2014, states. “These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

Leaders across the political spectrum, including former Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama and current Secretary of Defense James Mattis, have all noted the security implications of global warming. Like many other organizations, the navy cannot afford to treat climate change as a partisan issue. The Department of Defense knows that the mid-century world for which the admirals are now planning is likely to be warmer than today’s, with higher sea levels, new precipitation patterns, and more frequent and severe extreme weather events, imperiling and destabilizing many regions domestically and abroad. This creates two problems that exacerbate each other and that the navy needs to address simultaneously…”

Read on at: Harvard Business Review.