This blog post was written by Rear Adm. Dave Titley, Oceanographer of the Navy and director of Task Force Climate Change for the NavyLive blog. This Friday, June 18, from 12:00 – 12:45pm (EST) Rear Adm Titley will be participating in a Blogger’s Roundtable to discuss Task Force Climate Change and the way ahead for the Navy.
Task Force Climate Change (TFCC) was created by the Chief of Naval Operations (CNO) in May 2009 primarily to ensure our Navy is fully mission-capable and ready to meet any potential challenges to mission requirements, force structure and infrastructure created by a changing climate. It is charged with making recommendations on the way ahead based upon the best available scientific knowledge. In the broadest sense, TFCC is helping ensure the Navy understands the nature and timing of potential climate change impacts on military operations so we don’t have to spend a dime unnecessarily. If it becomes clear that the time has arrived to make investments, the Navy will have thought through the myriad of issues and will make the proper investments to ensure we can continue to execute our missions in a changing environment.
Our first task was to evaluate the Arctic region, both a maritime domain and the most rapidly changing region of the planet. As sea ice continues to decrease in volume and overall areal extent, the Arctic will probably become navigable by mid-century. We are already witnessing greater human access to the Arctic through the gradual opening of the Northwest Passage and Northern Sea Route. This will provide greater opportunities for commercial shipping, fishing, and mineral resource exploration. To meet Navy strategic objectives in the Arctic, we may need to make investments in naval force and infrastructure. At a minimum we need to continue to hone our ability to operate in these environments.
Despite an initial focus on the Arctic, it is not our only concern. As evidence of ocean and atmospheric warming continues to accumulate, we must be concerned about the potential for sea level rise due to ocean expansion and melting glaciers and icecaps. This could seriously affect military coastal installations as well as large populations of peoples living in low-lying coastal communities. Water resource challenges due to changing weather patterns could also add to economic and political pressures in less developed nations, decreasing regional stability.
In the last year, Task Force Climate Change has produced two documents to guide the way ahead for the Navy. Both the Arctic Roadmap and the broader Climate Change Roadmap place particular emphasis on better understanding the nature of climate change to answer the critical question of “when.” When will climate effects start to impact the Navy? When will we need new capabilities to adapt to climate change? When will we need to make investments to achieve those capabilities?
The Department of the Navy spends a great deal of effort in capabilities-based assessments, vetting future mission requirements against the capabilities that will be needed to accomplish those missions. This informs our investment strategies and ensures we are applying analytical rigor to our determinations and being responsible stewards of taxpayer dollars. These capabilities-based assessments will provide recommendations for future investments at the right time and right cost. We must ensure we have the apropriate capability on time, but we do not want to buy that capability ahead of need.
The Roadmaps also focus on partnerships with other federal agencies, private organizations and other nations to leverage work already being done and share the cost of climate change adaptation. We do not wish to spend scarce resources reinventing the wheel.
Finally, the Roadmaps encourage increased integration of climate considerations in Navy educational coursework, training scenarios, and strategic documents. This will ensure that future leaders have carefully thought out the implications of climate change.
People caught in a crisis tend to open up their checkbooks and just start desperately spending. Before climate change is deemed a crisis to national security, we want to have studied it, evaluated our options, and analytically determined the proper investments to make. It is our duty to the American people to ensure we make wise investments and remain fully mission-capable.