Climate Change

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. In the coming decades, the Arctic Ocean will be increasingly accessible and more broadly used by Arctic and non-Arctic nations seeking the region’s abundant resources and trade routes.

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, first released in November 2009 and updated in February 2014.  The document includes an implementation plan that outlines the Navy’s strategic approach for the Arctic Ocean and the ways and means to support the desired defense and national end states.

In May 2010, TFCC also promulgated the U.S. Navy Climate Change Roadmap to guide action regarding climate change in regions other than the Arctic, with a primary focus on installation vulnerabilities.

Resource constraints and competing near-term mission demands require that naval investments be informed, focused, and deliberate. Proactive planning today allows the Navy to prepare its forces for future Arctic operations. The Roadmaps emphasize low-cost, long-lead activities that position the Navy to meet future demands, and cooperative activities with interagency and international partners to share capabilities, reduce cost, and maximize efficiency.