Saturday, December 28, 2019

Navy pulls plug on climate task force after Pentagon deems climate change a ‘national security issue’

By CAITLIN DOORNBOS | STARS AND STRIPES Published: August 28, 2019

A decade-old Navy task force that researched the effects of and possible adaptations to climate change closed in March, but the news didn’t break until this month.

On Aug. 7, E&E News Greenwire reported the service had “quietly” shuttered its Task Force Climate Change five months prior with little public notice.

A Navy spokesperson told the online publication, which covers energy and environmental issues, the program ended because its “functions have been transitioned to existing business processes.”


The task force’s closure came two months after a Jan. 10 Defense Department report on climate change effects on defense issues. In the report, the department deemed the phenomenon a “national security issue with potential impacts to DoD missions, operational places and installations.”

It listed recurrent flooding, drought, desertification, wildfires and thawing permafrost as climate-caused events that Defense Department installations could be vulnerable to in the coming 20 years. In the Navy alone, the January report said 16 installations are suffering from recurrent flooding, 18 from drought and seven from wildfires.


A former director of Task Force Climate Change, retired Rear Adm. John White, told E&E News that a task force typically releases a culminating report on its accomplishments or where the group’s responsibilities will be assigned before its closure. But no such report was released.

The Navy’s Energy, Environment and Climate Change website has been almost completely scrubbed. Three small boxes with links remain on the bottom right of the site, leading to pages for “energy,” “environment” and “climate change” – the latter of which is blank, aside from a broken link to “climate change fact sheets.”

Emptying the webpage follows a trend of disappearing mentions of climate change-related terms on federal environmental websites since President Donald Trump took office, according to a July 2019 report by the Environmental Data and Governance Initiative.

“Over the thousands of websites we monitor, use of the terms ‘climate change,’ ‘clean energy,’ and ‘adaptation’ dropped by 26% between 2016 and 2018,” the initiative reported. “[T]he Trump administration has removed climate change from federal agency websites, a clear policy indicator in line with withdrawing from the Paris Agreement and revoking the Clean Power Plan.”


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