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Climate Change in East Asia and the Pacific Impacts DOD

Climate Change in East Asia and the Pacific Impacts DOD

OCT. 19, 2021 | BY CLIMATE POLICY TEAM, OFFICE OF DEFENSE FOR STRATEGY, PLANS AND CAPABILITIES

The defense secretary has called climate change an "existential threat." Last spring, at the Leaders Summit on Climate, Lloyd J. Austin III highlighted particular challenges in the Pacific associated with the ways "rising sea levels and more frequent and intense storms put individuals, families and whole communities at risk — while pushing the limits of our collective capacity to respond."

The particular challenges in the Pacific region were also highlighted by the official performing the duties of the assistant secretary of defense for strategy, plans and capabilities at a Congressional hearing in July that focused specifically on climate change.

During the "Combating Climate Change in East Asia and the Pacific" hearing, Melissa Dalton testified alongside colleagues from the Department of State and the U.S. Agency for International Development. She acknowledged the importance of Defense Department support to the State Department, USAID and allies and partners in addressing the effects of climate change in the Indo-Pacific region. In particular, Dalton addressed the ways climate is exacerbating existing challenges and creating new ones.

She told senators that increased frequency and intensity of extreme events, and rising sea levels, can endanger critical national security sites located in climate-exposed parts of the Pacific. Dalton noted how the Marshall Islands has an average elevation of just six feet above sea level. This climate-exposed country hosts critical national security sites, such as the Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site and the Space Fence facility on Kwajalein Atoll.

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