In contrast to many US politicians, the Pentagon believes firmly in climate change. The Quadrennial Defense Review (QDR) is the principal document that describes US military doctrine, detailing strategic objectives and possible threats. The recently-released 2014 iteration declared that the effects of climate change will be devastating.
The latest is the fourth QDR to describe climate change as a threat. It recorded that climate change would increase the frequency, size and complexity of missions while simultaneously undermining capacity because sea levels are rising and extreme weather increasing. It could “devastate homes, land and infrastructure,” “exacerbate water scarcity,” “spur or exacerbate mass migration” and “lead to sharp increases in food costs.”
As a result, there will be greater competition for resources and possibly more terrorist activity. The QDR described the effects of climate change as “threat multipliers” that will worsen poverty, environmental degradation and political instability, which can encourage terrorism.
The QDR spoke of how the Department of Defense would creatively address climate change, preparing for its consequences. At the most basic level, military installations will have to be strengthened to cope with rising sea levels and extreme weather, with the National Intelligence Council finding in 2008 that over 30 US military facilities were already at risk in this respect. This analysis set the US military apart from many businesses, never mind arms of government. Another such measure is the Department’s Arctic Strategy, a necessity now that climate change is leading to the melting of sea ice, opening the region to access by ship. It has, however, been suggested that this will worsen the situation, concentrating as it does on US access to fossil fuel deposits that are currently out of reach, to cause yet more climate change.
In the intelligence community’s Annual Threat Assessment, which was presented to the senate by the Director of National Intelligence, Admiral Dennis Blair, it was mentioned that in North Africa, climate change will fan the flames of existing problems with water and food, so the living conditions in cities are likely to grow worse and will be accompanied by frequent civil unrest. Governments might collapse. The already extensive migration of North Africans to Europe will burgeon. Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb has already taken advantage of the situation, with a fresh report by the Potomac Institute for Policy Studies determining that its activity is at “a new high level of intensity,” having grown by 558 percent.
The U.S. military is the greatest consumer of energy on this Earth, spending $3.8bn on 31.3 million barrels of oil in 2009, so it could have a large impact on fossil fuel usage. This is in its interests, as less reliance on oil will require less supply convoys that can be attacked and consume less cash – fuel represents a third of the cost of deploying a service member to Afghanistan.
Timothy Chilman used to work in IT. Once, in Sydney, he was turned down for a job because he was “too flamboyant” (“Someone who wears green tartan suspenders to a job interview probably isn’t going to fit in here”). Timothy then became an English teacher. University students in Bangkok complained that he was “too enthusiastic” and company students in Prague complained that he was “too theatrical.”