Internal documents from the Pentagon reveal a notable de-emphasis on climate change as a national security threat, seemingly to accommodate a president who does not believe in climate change itself. As revealed by the Washington Post, earlier Obama-era drafts of a Defense Department report referenced climate change 23 times; the Trump-era version mentions climate change only once, with previous references removed or changed to more Trump-palatable phrases such as “extreme weather.” Though the Pentagon continues to treat climate change as a potentially destabilizing threat to national security, it seems poised to avoid political battles on what has become a partisan issue.
The Washington Post was not able to verify who made the changes to the report, and the Department of Defense would not comment on that issue. “As highlighted in the report, the effects of climate are a national security issue with potential impacts to missions, operational plans, and installations,” Pentagon spokesperson Heather Babb said in a statement. “DOD continues to focus on ensuring its installations and infrastructure are resilient to a wide range of threats, including climate. The Department has a proven record of planning and preparing for such threats.”
While the Trump-era version of the report still reaches the conclusion that extreme weather poses a national security threat, it does not address sea-level rise as directly as the Obama-era version. This problem is particularly pertinent for the US military, whose bases in Norfolk, Virginia and the Marshall Islands are at risk of flooding as sea levels increase. A map that revealed locations which face heightened flood risk was also removed.
“The wordsmithing, not saying ‘climate,’ I could live with that,” Dennis McGinn, a former Obama Administration assistant secretary of the Navy for energy, installations and environment and retired Navy vice admiral, told the Washington Post. “But taking out … maps of critical areas of flooding, that’s pretty fundamental. And the Arctic, that’s huge, for a lot of reasons, not just for Department of Defense, but for the Coast Guard, and commercial shipping business.”