Climate change is already affecting the US military’s combat readiness and providing opportunities for China to exploit, the Pentagon’s No. 2 official said on Friday.
“Climate change and extreme weather events caused by climate change affect everything from the number of days we can fly and train” to the ability to use military installations when sea levels rise or fall. As the drought sets in, Kathleen Hicks, deputy defense secretary, said in an interview with host Joe Mathieu on Bloomberg Radio’s “Sound On” program.
Climate change could affect the military’s fuel lines and even the ability of its planes to “hang out in the air,” she said.
Hicks’ commented after the Pentagon released a new climate risk analysis, which warned of “aggravated implications” for US national security, including the danger that China would try to take advantage of climate risks in the Indo-Pacific region.
Hicks said that in regions such as the Arctic, “we are starting to see a lot more competition from Russia and China in and around strategic minerals and strategic reserves and resources.” She said there was a need to protect scientific missions in these areas and to deal with potential “conflicts and miscalculations” with China and Russia.
Climate change is also increasing the extent to which the military is called upon to conduct disaster relief and humanitarian relief missions overseas and in the United States, Hicks said. She cited an increase in the use of the National Guard in recent years to help tackle threats such as year-round wildfires in the United States.
Hicks said the Defense Department is working to reduce its own carbon footprint from the fuel it purchases through its use of airplanes, tanks and military installations. She said using micro-grids and electric vehicle charging stations would be part of the solution.
“We are developing Budget 2023 to determine what the costs” are of reducing the carbon footprint, Hicks said. “We are ensuring that our force is trained and equipped to operate in extreme conditions and has the right test equipment for climatic effects,” she said. “We make sure that we have a resilient infrastructure, that our supply chain is resilient and innovative. “
Hicks is the first woman to hold the post of Assistant Secretary of Defense. She previously led President Joe Biden’s transition team at the Pentagon and worked as a national security expert at the Center for Strategic and International Studies. She served as Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Strategy, Plans and Forces from 2009 to 2012 and as Deputy Principal Under Secretary of Defense for Policy from 2012 to 2013.