November 12, 2012 1:12 pm
In the wake of hurricane Sandy’s devastating landfall on the northeast coast, nearly 4,000 National Guard soldiers moved throughout New York City to help spread supplies, to look for victims and to help keep the peace. By destroying homes, cutting power and limiting fuel supplies, natural disasters have a way of setting the stage for potential volatility—an effect that could be amplified in less-supported parts of the world. Climate disasters bring destruction, destruction brings volatility and volatility can bring instability. It is this train of thought that led the National Research Council, in a study commissioned by the U.S. intelligence community, to suggest that climate change will place “unparalleled strains on American military and intelligence agencies in coming years” says The New York Times.
Along with an increasing likelihood of damage from natural disasters such as Sandy, climate change is expected to bring an ice-free Arctic ocean, rising sea levels, and shifting patterns of rain and drought around the world. According to The Guardian,
The Pentagon already ranks climate change as a national security threat, putting US troops in danger around the world and adding fuel to existing conflicts. More than 30 US bases are threatened by sea level rise.
Climate-driven crises could lead to internal instability or international conflict and might force the United States to provide humanitarian assistance or, in some cases, military force to protect vital energy, economic or other interests, the study said.
The report has seemingly impeccable timing. A new poll from the Rasmussen Reports has found that 68% of U.S. adults rate climate change as a serious problem, with the bulk of those considering it to be “very serious.”
The news that climate change will be a challenge for the military isn’t exactly news to the military. For years, the Navy’s department of Energy, Environment and Climate Change has been pushing towards their so-called “Green Fleet.”
“Nonetheless,” says the Times, “the 206-page study warns in sometimes bureaucratic language, the United States is ill prepared to assess and prepare for the catastrophes that a heated planet will produce.”
More from Smithsonian.com:
Sign up for our free email newsletter and receive the best stories from Smithsonian.com each week.