Preparations made by installations along the Eastern Seaboard from Virginia to South Carolina last month to evacuate tens of thousands of personnel, along with dozens of ships and aircraft, in advance of Hurricane Florence served as a “dress rehearsal” for future storms and a possible response to rising sea levels, reports Bloomberg. Florence’s southward turn spared the military cluster in Virginia’s Hampton Roads region but the storm still put a number of installations in eastern North Carolina out of commission for several days, raising the question as to how the Pentagon plans to address the impacts of climate change.
“It’s a very serious threat if we don’t deal with it,” said Elizabeth Andrews, a professor and director of the Virginia Coastal Policy Center at William & Mary Law School. “We dodged a bullet, thank goodness, with Hurricane Florence, but we could have not dodged it,” Andrews said.
Military infrastructure’s vulnerability to climate threats can’t be ignored, said John Conger, director of the Center for Climate & Security. The problem for DOD is it has a backlog of tens of billions dollars of maintenance needs, making it difficult to focus on mitigation requirements, said Conger, who had been DOD’s acting assistant secretary for energy, installations and environment. The military, though, is taking a number of steps, including minimizing new construction in flood plains.
DOD’s ultimate solution to preparing for climate change likely will occur in concert with similar efforts under way in the host communities of affected installations. “In many cases that’s going to be the answer,” said Sherri Goodman, a former defense undersecretary for environmental security. “The needs of insuring that our military installations and communities are resilient to a changing climate could in many cases raise all boats.”
Marine Corps photo by Lance Cpl. Isaiah Gomez