In May 2009, the Chief of Naval Operations created Task Force Climate Change (TFCC) to address the naval implications of a changing Arctic and global environment. The Task Force was created to make recommendations to Navy leadership regarding policy, investment, and action, and to lead public discussion on this serious issue.
Climate change has implications for naval force structure and operations. Factors driving this include:
- The changing Arctic;
- The potential impact of sea level rise on installations and plans;
- Changing storm patterns and severity;
- Water and resource challenges;
- Stress on vulnerable nation states; and
- Increased humanitarian assistance and disaster response.
A number of scientific “wild cards” must also be considered, such as the impact of ocean acidification on ecosystems, abrupt climate change, and geo-engineering challenges.
Nowhere is the Earth’s climate changing more dramatically than in the Arctic. The U.S. is an Arctic nation and the Navy must be prepared to respond to the changes in this region. The Navy views the Arctic as a challenge, not a crisis, and acknowledges that the risk of conflict is low in the region; however, the Navy must consider responses to the changing Arctic environment from many different nations.
TFCC’s first major deliverable was the U.S. Navy Arctic Roadmap, released in November 2009. This document guides Navy policy, investment, action, and public discussion regarding the Arctic; capitalizes on the Navy’s extensive experience in the region; and emphasizes cooperative partnerships in joint surveys, research, search and rescue, Maritime Domain Awareness, and incident response.
In May 2010, TFCC has also promulgated the U.S. Navy Climate Change Roadmap to guide action regarding climate change in regions other than the Arctic. These actions focus on:
- Assessment and prediction – including data gathering through the use of networked observing systems and unmanned vehicles, and development of more robust air-ocean-ice prediction models.
- Adaptation – to reduce risk associated with sea level rise and changing environments.
- Mitigation – through the Secretary of the Navy’s energy security and efficiency goals.
Climate change presents opportunities to the Navy and the Nation for increased international collaboration. For example, the State Department’s Office of Ocean and Polar Affairs is coordinating federal interagency interest to develop search and rescue capabilities in the Arctic, with participation from both the U.S. Navy and U.S. Coast Guard. Task Force Climate Change has also participated in bilateral international coordination with the militaries of all other Arctic nations, as well as with numerous allied nations.