The Pentagon is moving forward with plans to protect its bases and operations from rising seas and other impacts of climate change, despite an order by President Trump to halt climate planning.
On March 28th, 2017, President Trump issued an executive order that rescinded all climate change actions within federal agencies. These actions had been mandated by a rule from the former Obama administration that required federal agencies to take the necessary steps to protect their respective agencies from climate threats. The original Obama order required military bases to factor climate change into their planning operations for expansions, existing structures, and future developments.
President Trump signed the March 28th executive order while flanked on either side by coal miners and fossil fuel executives, where he proudly proclaimed to the miners that this order meant that they would be “going back to work,” as reported by The New York Times. However, in spite of his promise, the coal industry has continued on a steady decline even after the rescinded climate protections.
Even though the executive order issued by Trump in March put an end to the requirement that government agencies plan for climate impacts, the Pentagon is still moving forward with plans to protect its military installations in the United States from the growing threat.
As The Military Times points out, the Obama administration order on climate change required the Department of Defense to draft what came to be known as a climate change roadmap in 2014. In 2016, the DoD issued directive 4715.21 which required military bases to begin factoring climate change threats into their planning as a way to preserve bases if catastrophic events like floods or severe storms were to pose an imminent threat.
“…the 2014 roadmap was invalidated by Trump’s March 28 executive order, the Pentagon said. It is also now reviewing directive 4715.21, “to determine if it should be suspended, revised, or rescinded,” Pentagon spokesman Lt. Cmdr. Patrick Evans said.”
While directive 4715.21 is being reviewed, the Pentagon has instructed all branches to treat the directive as if it is still in place, meaning that military bases are still doing what they can to prepare themselves for the threat of climate catastrophes. The military is also trying to get around Trump’s executive order by excluding the mention of “climate change” as they work on flood mitigation, drought, and storm plans for their bases.
Regardless of which political party is in power, the United States military has long been at the forefront of climate awareness. As far as back 1965, scientists and advisors began warning then-President Lyndon Johnson about the threat of rising carbon pollution. Unearthed memos from both the Ronald Reagan and George Bush, Sr. administrations show that military leaders were concerned about the threat that climate change posed to the United States, a sentiment that was echoed by the Pentagon during the George W. Bush administration.
The fact that the military has long considered climate change a threat gives hope that we may someday move beyond the politically squabbling over science and move into an era where those in power take the threats seriously and work together to stop looming catastrophes from becoming realities.
Image via Wikimedia Commons: Service members salute the American flag during a retreat ceremony Oct. 2, 2014, at Little Rock Air Force Base, Ark. The four military members represented each branch of the U.S. military and assembled to show solidarity. (U.S. Air Force photo by Airman 1st Class Harry Brexel/Released)