Climate Impacts Nearly Half of U.S. Military Bases
By Alex Kirby
Once more, the administration of President Trump seems puzzled about how seriously—if at all—it should regard how climate effects strike U.S. military abilities.
In December the president listed the global threats he reckoned the U.S. was facing—and climate change didn't get a mention. Now, though, the U.S. Department of Defense says many of its bases are feeling the worrying impacts of climate change.
Around half of U.S. military bases worldwide are already experiencing those impacts, a Pentagon report says. A survey shows risks to military infrastructure related to climate and extreme weather are widespread, affecting nearly 50 percent of the 1,684 sites involved.
The survey, described as a vulnerability assessment, identifies several key categories of risk: flooding, both from storm surges and causes such as rain, snow, ice and river overflows; extreme heat and cold; wind; drought; and wildfire. The Pentagon says the risks are not confined to vulnerable coastal sites.
The survey paints what the Center for Climate & Security (CCS), a U.S. non-partisan policy institute composed of security and military experts, calls "a concerning picture of current climate change-related risks to military installations both at home and abroad."
John Conger, a senior policy adviser at the CCS, is a former U.S. deputy under-secretary of defense. He told the Climate News Network:
"This report represents the first survey of climate impacts across the Department of Defense's installation enterprise, and while it does not detail specific impacts, the breadth of impacts it reports is significant.
"No region is immune from climate impacts. This work will form the foundation of vulnerability assessments and mitigation planning in the future."
As rapid climate change is projected to intensify most of these risks during this century, the CCS said, it is reasonable to expect that military sites will become more vulnerable unless significant resources are devoted to adaptation, or the rate and scale of climate change are reduced.
"What is potentially significant about this survey … is how widespread climate change-related risks to military assets already are," it said.
The vulnerability statement insists that the Pentagon will do what it thinks necessary to protect its bases: "Our warfighters require bases from which to deploy, on which to train, or to live when they are not deployed.
"If extreme weather makes our critical facilities unusable or necessitates costly or manpower-intensive work-arounds, that is an unacceptable impact."
The CCS said the survey makes it clear that climate change is already affecting the U.S. military's ability to do its job, finding that many installations are "highly vulnerable to a variety of different types of extreme or severe weather events. Scientists expect heat waves, flooding, drought and wildfires to all increase over the coming decades."
On the president's December failure to include climate change in his list of global security threats to the U.S., Mr Conger said, "While it is unfortunate that mention of climate was dropped from the strategy, it isn't surprising.
"I expect the U.S. military will continue to focus on mission assurance efforts and it clearly recognizes climate change is one of the risks it must consider. The omission won't block the DoD from working on climate resilience, but its reduction in priority is likely to slow progress."
Beyond Harvey and Irma: Homeland Security in the #ClimateChange Era https://t.co/usqEF0kKuw https://t.co/wupv48ijQj— David Henderson Ⓥ🌱 🥗🐖🐔🐮❤️ (@David Henderson Ⓥ🌱 🥗🐖🐔🐮❤️)1505791534.0
Reposted with permission from our media associate Climate News Network.
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By D. André Green II
One of nature's epic events is underway: Monarch butterflies' fall migration. Departing from all across the United States and Canada, the butterflies travel up to 2,500 miles to cluster at the same locations in Mexico or along the Pacific Coast where their great-grandparents spent the previous winter.
Millions of People Care About Monarchs<p>I will never forget the sights and sounds the first time I visited monarchs' overwintering sites in Mexico. Our guide pointed in the distance to what looked like hanging branches covered with dead leaves. But then I saw the leaves flash orange every so often, revealing what were actually thousands of tightly packed butterflies. The monarchs made their most striking sounds in the Sun, when they burst from the trees in massive fluttering plumes or landed on the ground in the tussle of mating.</p><p>Decades of educational outreach by teachers, researchers and hobbyists has cultivated a generation of monarch admirers who want to help preserve this phenomenon. This global network has helped restore not only monarchs' summer breeding habitat by planting milkweed, but also general pollinator habitat by planting nectaring flowers across North America.</p><p>Scientists have calculated that restoring the monarch population to a stable level of about 120 million butterflies will require <a href="https://doi.org/10.1111/icad.12198" target="_blank">planting 1.6 billion new milkweed stems</a>. And they need them fast. This is too large a target to achieve through grassroots efforts alone. A <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/CCAA.html" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">new plan</a>, announced in the spring of 2020, is designed to help fill the gap.</p>
Pros and Cons of Regulation<p>The top-down strategy for saving monarchs gained energy in 2014, when the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service <a href="https://www.fws.gov/southeast/pdf/petition/monarch.pdf" target="_blank">proposed</a> listing them as threatened under the Endangered Species Act. A decision is expected in December 2020.</p><p>Listing a species as endangered or threatened <a href="https://www.fws.gov/endangered/esa-library/pdf/listing.pdf" target="_blank">triggers restrictions</a> on "taking" (hunting, collecting or killing), transporting or selling it, and on activities that negatively affect its habitat. Listing monarchs would impose restrictions on landowners in areas where monarchs are found, over vast swaths of land in the U.S.</p><p>In my opinion, this is not a reason to avoid a listing. However, a "threatened" listing might inadvertently threaten one of the best conservation tools that we have: public education.</p><p>It would severely restrict common practices, such as rearing monarchs in classrooms and back yards, as well as scientific research. Anyone who wants to take monarchs and milkweed for these purposes would have to apply for special permits. But these efforts have had a multigenerational educational impact, and they should be protected. Few public campaigns have been more successful at raising awareness of conservation issues.</p>
<span style="display:block;position:relative;padding-top:56.25%;" class="rm-shortcode" data-rm-shortcode-id="91165203d4ec0efc30e4632a00fdf57d"><iframe lazy-loadable="true" src="https://www.youtube.com/embed/KilPRvjbMrA?rel=0" width="100%" height="auto" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" style="position:absolute;top:0;left:0;width:100%;height:100%;"></iframe></span>
The Rescue Attempt<p>To preempt the need for this kind of regulation, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service approved a <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/pdfs/Monarch%20CCAA-CCA%20Public%20Comment%20Documents/Monarch-Nationwide_CCAA-CCA_Draft.pdf" target="_blank">Nationwide Candidate Conservation Agreement for Monarch Butterflies</a>. Under this plan, "rights-of-way" landowners – energy and transportation companies and private owners – commit to restoring and creating millions of acres of pollinator habitat that have been decimated by land development and herbicide use in the past half-century.</p><p>The agreement was spearheaded by the <a href="http://rightofway.erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank">Rights-of-Way Habitat Working Group</a>, a collaboration between the University of Illinois Chicago's <a href="https://erc.uic.edu/" target="_blank" rel="noopener noreferrer">Energy Resources Center</a>, the Fish and Wildlife Service and over 40 organizations from the energy and transportation sectors. These sectors control "rights-of-way" corridors such as lands near power lines, oil pipelines, railroad tracks and interstates, all valuable to monarch habitat restoration.</p><p>Under the plan, partners voluntarily agree to commit a percentage of their land to host protected monarch habitat. In exchange, general operations on their land that might directly harm monarchs or destroy milkweed will not be subject to the enhanced regulation of the Endangered Species Act – protection that would last for 25 years if monarchs are listed as threatened. The agreement is expected to create up to 2.3 million acres of new protected habitat, which ideally would avoid the need for a "threatened" listing.</p>
A Model for Collaboration<p>This agreement could be one of the few specific interventions that is big enough to allow researchers to quantify its impact on the size of the monarch population. Even if the agreement produces only 20% of its 2.3 million acre goal, this would still yield nearly half a million acres of new protected habitat. This would provide a powerful test of the role of declining breeding and nectaring habitat compared to other challenges to monarchs, such as climate change or pollution.</p><p>Scientists hope that data from this agreement will be made publicly available, like projects in the <a href="https://www.fws.gov/savethemonarch/MCD.html" target="_blank">Monarch Conservation Database</a>, which has tracked smaller on-the-ground conservation efforts since 2014. With this information we can continue to develop powerful new models with better accuracy for determining how different habitat factors, such as the number of milkweed stems or nectaring flowers on a landscape scale, affect the monarch population.</p><p>North America's monarch butterfly migration is one of the most awe-inspiring feats in the natural world. If this rescue plan succeeds, it could become a model for bridging different interests to achieve a common conservation goal.</p>
The annual Ig Nobel prizes were awarded Thursday by the science humor magazine Annals of Improbable Research for scientific experiments that seem somewhat absurd, but are also thought-provoking. This was the 30th year the awards have been presented, but the first time they were not presented at Harvard University. Instead, they were delivered in a 75-minute pre-recorded ceremony.