GAO: Military talks up climate change but does little to account for its costs

The Pentagon says climate change poses a risk to its overseas operations, but it is doing little to assess the costs of those effects such as sea-level rise and weather issues, a federal watchdog agency said Wednesday.

“The expected impacts of weather effects associated with climate change pose operational and budgetary risks to overseas infrastructure according to the Department of Defense, but DOD does not consistently track the impacts’ estimated costs,” the Government Accountability Office said in a report.

The “operational risks” from climate change include training and mission interruptions, as well as the costs associated with repairing damage.

“Without a requirement to systematically track such costs, DOD will not have the information it needs to integrate climate-related impact resource considerations into future budgets,” the report stated.

The government watchdog sent the DOD a list of six recommendations.

It advises the Defense Department to require overseas installations to systematically track costs associated with climate effects. It also recommends that the department readminister a vulnerability survey to include all sites that are at risk.

Third, it recommends that the Pentagon integrate climate change adaptation into a group of standards, while including climate change adaptation in agreements with nations that host U.S. military bases. Climate adaptations refers to activities meant to cope with the effects of climate change, rather than attempting to solve the problem of global warming.

In making the recommendations, the GAO said the Defense Department partially concurred with four of the six recommendations. “GAO recognizes DOD’s efforts to review its climate-related policies, but continues to believe its recommendations are valid, as discussed in this report,” the watchdog said.

“While the military services have begun to integrate climate change adaptation into installations’ plans and project designs, this integration has been limited,” the report said.

“For example, only about one-third of the plans that GAO reviewed addressed climate change adaptation,” the agency said. “Similarly, projects GAO discussed with DOD officials were rarely designed to include climate change adaptation. This is due to the inconsistent inclusion of climate change adaptation in training and design standards for installation planners and engineers.”

The defense authorization bill that President Trump signed this week to fund the fiscal 2018 Defense Department budget calls climate change a threat to national security.

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