September 21, 2009

Why the Military Is Going Green

[This post originally appeared on Harvard Business Online here]

In recent months, which radical, tree-hugging group has upped the volume on pushing for action on climate change? I bet you wouldn't have guessed American military leaders. Apparently, the people standing on the proverbial (and actual) walls defending our freedoms are very concerned about the dangers our soldiers face in an uncertain, physically changing world. It's something that businesses need to pay attention to, since the military's top strategists are now getting involved in developing solutions that may well be useful to — or even critical to — individual companies' success.

Generals and admirals are now making the case that climate change is a threat to our national security. Changing regional climates, more natural disasters, and displaced peoples will force us to put troops in harm's way more frequently — and the military must be prepared.

For the leading thinking on climate and security, look no further than CNA Corporation, a think tank funded by the Pentagon, which has, in the words of the New York Times, spoken "ominously of climate change as a 'threat multiplier' that could lead to wide conflict over resources."

I recently spoke at an event in DC and sat at lunch with retired Vice Admiral Lee Gunn, the President of both CNA's Institute for Public Research and the American Security Project (ASP). In his powerful keynote address, Vice Admiral Gunn spoke about the risks global climate change presents to America. His view on the science was simple: "Some are still not convinced about the science on human-induced climate change — I am."

The Admiral laid out three large shifts in military practice and strategy that climate change will bring about:

1. Why the U.S. fights, gives aid, and responds to disasters: Natural disasters, water shortages, and the weakening of some states mean "we will deploy more often to more places."

2. How logistics patterns will change: One of our primary military bases in the Middle East, Diego Garcia in the Indian Ocean, is only a few feet above sea level. The physical shifts and the changes in force structure related to #1 and #2 will all be expensive.

3. What will happen to international relations: The loss of sea ice is changing commercial and military sea patterns. The Arctic represents a new area of resources for countries to potentially compete over (remember Russia planting a flag last year on the North Pole sea bed?).

[Please see the rest of the post here]

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