January 30, 2019 / 10:59 PM / 3 months ago

U.S. lawmakers urge Pentagon to revise climate change report

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Three Democratic U.S. lawmakers, including the House armed services committee chairman, on Wednesday urged the Pentagon to revise a report on climate change, saying it omitted required items such as a list of the 10 most vulnerable bases.

A digital clock is seen on the wall inside a building at U.S. Central Command at MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, Florida, September 17, 2014. REUTERS/Larry Downing

The Pentagon’s report, released on Jan. 10, said climate change was a national security issue and listed 79 domestic military installations at risk from floods, drought, encroaching deserts, wildfires and, in Alaska, thawing permafrost.

But the report, required by a defense policy law signed by President Donald Trump in 2017, did not include the top 10 list, and details of specific mitigation measures to make bases more resilient to climate change, including the costs. It also failed to list any Marine Corps bases or installations overseas.

U.S. Representative Adam Smith, the chairman of the House committee, said the Trump administration’s report was inadequate. “It demonstrates a continued unwillingness to seriously recognize and address the threat that climate change poses to our national security and military readiness,” Smith said in a release.

Trump has repeatedly cast doubt on the science of climate change, arguing that the causes and impacts are not yet settled. As a temporary blast of frigid cold hit the Midwest this week he said on Twitter “What the Hell is going on with Global Wa(r)ming. Please come back fast, we need you!”

The letter, addressed to Acting Defense Department Secretary Patrick Shanahan and a copy of which was seen by Reuters, called the report “deeply disappointing.” It requested a revised report by April 1.

The report said major installations including Florida’s MacDill Air Force Base, Virginia’s Norfolk Naval Station, and California’s Coronado Naval Base, face risks from flooding currently and in the future. In all, 53 installations already face flooding, it said.

The main road to the Norfolk installation, the world’s largest naval base, experiences chronic flooding, and electric and water utilities supporting it are threatened when waters rise.

Experts say one of the most vulnerable installations abroad is the U.S. Naval Support Facility at the Diego Garcia atoll in the Indian Ocean, which acts as a logistics hub for U.S. forces in the Middle East and has an average elevation of four feet (1.22 m) above sea level.

The report did not mention Marine Corps bases at risk from climate change. Critics decried the omission, after Camp Lejeune, a base in North Carolina, was bashed by Hurricane Florence in 2018, causing about $3.6 billion in damages and displacing thousands of personnel.

While no single storm or weather event can be blamed on climate change, a majority of scientists say it is leading to rising seas and more intense storms, floods, droughts.

Heather Babb, a Pentagon spokeswoman, said the Defense Department will respond directly to the authors of the letter.

Reporting by Timothy Gardner in Washington; additional reporting by Idrees Ali; Editing by James Dalgleish

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