Pentagon Defies Trump on Climate Change

Climate Change is a national security threat.

3 OCT 2017

This week, the Military Times reported that the Pentagon is moving ahead with climate change preparations, despite an executive order from President Trump that reverses Obama-era federal climate and clean energy initiatives.


The Department of Defense (DOD) has known for a long time that climate change is an increasingly urgent issue for the military and poses a serious national security risk.

In 2014, under the Obama administration, the Pentagon established a Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap, which "lays out reasonable adaptation and mitigation actions to ensure or at least bolster our national security against measured and measurable climate change events." Two years later, under Obama's orders, the DOD issued the directive 4715.21 to begin implementing the roadmap.

"A changing climate will have real impacts on our military and the way it executes its missions," the Defense Department concluded in the 2014 report.  

"The military could be called upon more often to support civil authorities … in the face of more frequent and more intense natural disasters."

Which is exactly what the United States experienced this month when Hurricane Harvey and Hurricane Irma wreaked havoc across the country. Harvey alone killed more than 70 people and caused billions of dollars in damage.

But in March the Trump administration ordered the Pentagon to cease and desist with their climate change roadmap, while the White House reviews directive 4715.21 "to determine if it should be suspended, revised, or rescinded."


Despite these orders, the Pentagon has found a way around Trump's executive order. The department claims they are just preparing for adverse events and not for climate change specifically.

"As Secretary Mattis has said, the department evaluates all potential threats that impact mission readiness, personnel health and installation resilience, then uses that information to assess impacts and identify responses," said Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Evans.  

"The effect of a changing climate is one of a variety of threats and risks, but it's not a mission of the Department of Defense."

For instance, the DOD continues with plans to fortify their naval facilities from rising seas. And for good reason. Hampton Roads, one of these naval facility sites, is ranked just below New Orleans for vulnerability by NOAA.

"I can't talk the science, but I can tell you what we've done," says Todd Lyman, a spokesman for the command responsible for ensuring Hampton Roads is ready for these storms.  

"For many years, NAVFAC has been replacing any single-deck pier with double-deck piers. We've also built structures here at a higher elevation than code requires in an effort to improve stormwater management. The goal is for us to continue our mission, maintain resilience."

It's not apparent what sort of punishment, if any, the DOD will suffer for continuing with their climate change plans. But one things for sure, if no steps are taken in the coming years, defense facilities across the country will be put at great risk.