Opinion

NC military bases under attack from climate change

Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune, which the Department of Defense says is threatened by climate change.
Onslow Beach at Camp Lejeune, which the Department of Defense says is threatened by climate change.

From Sherri Goodman, is the former Deputy Undersecretary of Defense for Environmental Security, and Founder of the CNA Military Advisory Board on Climate Change and National Security; Rear Admiral (ret.) David Oliver is the director of the American Superconductor Corporation; and Rye Barcott, a clean energy entrepreneur in North Carolina:

The devastating flooding wreaked by Hurricane Matthew took the lives of at least 25 North Carolinians and caused an estimated $1.5 billion in damage over the past weeks. It is a reminder that climate change is a serious threat, a threat that, according to the U.S. military, creates new risks for North Carolina’s bases and our men and women deployed overseas.

North Carolina is home to more service personnel than any other state except California and Texas, and our bases face unique risk. The Department of Defense’s Quadrennial Defense Reviews have warned that climate change may undermine the capacity of our domestic installations to support training activities, and that “more than 30 U.S. military installations were already facing elevated levels of risk from rising sea levels.”

The Department of Defense identified coastal North Carolina as “one of the nation’s most vulnerable regions to climate change.” This region includes Camp Lejeune and four other coastal military bases, while other large inland bases such as Fort Bragg and Seymour Johnson may become more susceptible to flooding and other extreme weather.

Our military bases are vital parts of America’s national security and our state’s economy. According to the N.C. Department of Commerce, our state’s military installations generate $66 billion annually for our economy. North Carolina’s bases are also disproportionately important to the military’s preparedness, training, and force projection capabilities.

While the Quadrennial Defense Reviews have identified climate change as a risk to our domestic installations’ capacity to support training activities, it may also threaten their existence. The Union of Concerned Scientists, a credible, 46-year-old organization, assessed that climate change could contribute to seas rising between three and six feet in the area around Camp Lejeune by the end of this century.

Moreover, by interfering with these facilities’ operations and jeopardizing their future sustainability, extreme weather exacerbated by climate change threatens our ability to project power.

Climate change can also create new risks for our men and women deployed overseas. The Pentagon has also concluded that climate change could fuel conflict with droughts, floods, and other natural disasters that undermine “already-fragile governments” and create avenues “for extremist ideologies and conditions that foster terrorism.”

Scientists disagree about the extent and speed of climate change. But all credible scientists agree that climate change is manmade and presents credible and at some point catastrophic threats.

Each of us served in or alongside the military. We witnessed the importance of adaptive, reasonable, and forward-looking leadership. Denying climate change is irresponsible. It damages mission readiness. It weakens our country and our NC economy by threatening our military bases.

We need a President and other elected leaders who take these threats seriously, and who works to address them on both the domestic and international stages. Without such leadership, our bases, our economy, and national security will suffer. We cannot afford to be led by someone who claims, as Donald Trump has, that climate change is “nonexistent,” a “big scam,” and “created by and for the Chinese.”

The bottom line is we need leaders who believe in science, make fact-based decisions, and have realistic plans of attack. The stakes are high. Climate change is a problem that may impact our lives and the lives of our soldiers, sailors, and Marines in profound ways for generations to come – especially if we elect people who ignore it.

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