Climate change has national security implications, DoD official says

Climate change has national security implications, DoD official says
A firefighter works during the Creek Fire in the Cascadel Woods area of Madera County, Calif. Photo credit Josh Edelson/U.S. Marine Corps

Understanding and dealing with climate change is important to national security and, therefore, to the Defense Department, the senior climate advisor to the defense secretary said.

"Climate change effects are real and they are significant," he said. "Climate change is going to cost us in resources and readiness; and the reality is that it already is," Joe Bryan today told the Congressional Clean Energy EXPO and Policy Forum.

Bryan cited some examples:

- As the Arctic warms up, competition for resources and influence in that region is heating up.

- Extended drought in Honduras, Guatemala and El Salvador is driving migration north to the United States' southern border.

- Water resources are at risk in the Middle East due to extended drought and extreme heat conditions that threaten regional security and prosperity.

- Stronger hurricanes and typhoons, flooding, droughts, heat waves and wildfires are adversely affecting military operations and exercises at home and abroad at an increasing and alarming rate.

In response to climate change, DOD is working to become more energy efficient and independent, Bryan said.

For instance, some bases are becoming more energy efficient by bringing energy storage and distributed generation inside the installations, using energy derived from landfill gas and solar, he said.

About two-thirds to three-fourths of DOD energy is consumed by systems like airplanes and ships, not facilities on installations, he noted.

"We know that we're not going to get a free pass to push fuel into theater; so we can't be aggressive enough in reducing operational energy demand," he said about the need to ship fuel overseas to power planes, ships and vehicles.

Bryan cited several ways DOD is reducing operational energy demand, including deploying hybrid-electric tactical vehicles, making engine improvements on ships so less fuel is consumed and reducing airplane drag to improve fuel efficiency.

"These investments are a priority because they're great for the mission — and they're quite good for the climate, as well," he said.

President Joe Biden has made domestic production of lithium-ion batteries a priority, Bryan mentioned. That investment is closely tied to electric vehicle deployment in the federal vehicle fleet, including DOD's vehicles.

"The commercial EV [electric vehicle] industry is actually critical to DOD capability. The scale and shift to electrical transportation is massive and fast," he said.

Currently, China dominates the lithium-ion battery sector, and that's a problem since military capability depends on batteries, he said.

The Navy alone has 2,000 to 3,000 systems that rely on lithium-ion batteries. Future capabilities — from unmanned systems to directed energy weapons — all rely on lithium ion, he said.

"We need the commercial EV industry to drive supply chain investment back to the United States," he noted.