Connecting the Dots: Climate Change & National Security

Climate & Conflict

  • Extreme weather events such as hurricanes, heat waves, droughts, and floods have strong links to violent conflicts, helping to explain patterns of crime, domestic violence, and civil wars.  
  • Climate change will force people into increasing poverty and displacement, exacerbating the factors that lead to conflict, rendering both the humanitarian needs and responses in such situations even more complex. 

National Defense

  • Nearly half of U.S. military sites are threatened by extreme weather linked to climate change, according to a Pentagon study.  
  • Ten times a year, the Naval Station Norfolk (headquarters of the Atlantic fleet) floods. The entry road swamps. Connecting roads become impassable. Crossing from one side of the base to the other becomes impossible. Dockside, floodwaters overtop the concrete piers, shorting power hookups to the mighty ships that are docked in the world’s largest naval base. 
  • Flooding disrupts military readiness and at other bases clustered around the mouth of the Chesapeake Bay, officials say. Flooding will only worsen as the seas rise and the planet warms. By 2100, Norfolk station will flood 280 times a year, according to one estimate by the Union of Concerned Scientists. 
  • In the Arctic, the region warming faster than anywhere else on Earth, the combination of melting sea ice, thawing permafrost and sea-level rise is eroding the Alaska shoreline enough to damage several Air Force radar early warning and communication installations.  
  •  In the West, drought has amplified the threat of wildfires and deluge has damaged roads, runways, and buildings at bases there. Wildfire in Alaska has interrupted training. Last year in California, fires threatened Camp Pendleton, the Marine Corps’ major West Coast base, which lies 48 miles north of San Diego, as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base, 65 miles north of Santa Barbara. A year’s worth of rain fell in 80 minutes at Fort Irwin in the Mojave Desert in California, causing $64 million in damage to 160 buildings, including barracks, roads, a bridge, and 11,000 feet of fencing.