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Managing Climate Change: Lessons from the U.S. Navy

The United States Navy operates on the front lines of climate change. It manages tens of billions of dollars of assets on every continent and on every ocean.

Those assets—ships, submarines, aircraft, naval bases, and the technology that links everything together—take many years to design and build and then have decades of useful life. This means that the navy needs to understand now what sorts of missions it may be required to perform in 10, 20, or 30 years and what assets and infrastructure it will need to carry out those missions. Put another way, it needs to plan for the world that will exist at that time.

The Department of Defense is clear-eyed about the challenges climate change poses. “The pressures caused by climate change will influence resource competition while placing additional burdens on economies, societies, and governance institutions around the world,” the most recent Quadrennial Defense Review, issued in 2014, states. “These effects are threat multipliers that will aggravate stressors abroad such as poverty, environmental degradation, political instability, and social tensions—conditions that can enable terrorist activity and other forms of violence.”

U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist 2nd Class John Herman

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