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Food shortages, natural disasters, energy supply issues and the spread of epidemics are some of the possible climate-related perils the U.S. military needs to prepare to deal with, the National Academies claim in a new report released Friday.
According to Suzanne Goldenberg, U.S. Environment Correspondent with The Guardian, the report advises American defense personnel to “start planning for natural disasters, sea-level rise, drought, epidemics and the other consequences of climate change.”
Goldenberg and John M. Broder of the New York Times both point out that Pentagon officials already consider global warming to be a potential threat to national security.
In fact, Broder says, the Defense Department has been investing “billions of dollars” in an attempt to deal with any climate-related issues that could arise, such as making more fuel-efficient land, sea and air vehicles.
However, the 206-page report released Friday suggests they need to do more.
Broder says the report warns of “clusters of apparently unrelated events exacerbated by a warming climate will create more frequent but unpredictable crises in water supplies, food markets, energy supply chains and public health systems… Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests.”
The National Academies warned the Pentagon, the CIA, and other agencies that commissioned the report that their planning could be catastrophically altered by what the authors dub “climate surprises,” Goldenberg explained.
Those events could be singular in nature (such as the cost of food going up due to a lack of crops, a shortage of water, or an energy-related issue) or a chain reaction of various climate-related problems compiling to create a legitimate threat to America’s national security, the authors wrote following 18 months of research into the issue.
“It makes sense for the intelligence community to apply a scenario approach in thinking about potentially disruptive events,” the report said, according to The Guardian. “It may make sense to consider the security implications of two or three more plausible trends as a way to anticipate risks… It is essential for the intelligence community to understand adaptation and changes in vulnerability to climate events.”
“In other words, states will fail, large populations subjected to famine, flood or disease will migrate across international borders, and national and international agencies will not have the resources to cope,” Broder added. “The report cites the simultaneous heat wave in Russia and floods in Pakistan in the summer of 2010 as disparate but linked climate-related events that taxed those societies.”