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Sharon Burke, Senior Advisor at New America, discusses climate change as a national security issue and its impact on the military

Among the flurry of executive orders President Biden has signed since entering office is an initiative to place climate change at the forefront of American foreign policy and national security. Sharon Burke, senior advisor at New America, says climate change and more severe storms are threats the Pentagon needs to start preparing for.

“All of those impacts [from storms] are getting worse. Everybody in this country is seeing that storms that you didn’t see that often, now you’re seeing every couple of years,” Burke, who is the former assistant secretary of defense for operational energy, said. “That affects military bases just like it does everyone else. A lot of these bases are on the coastline, so they’re vulnerable to storm surge, coastal storms and those types of floods.”

Burke mentions Nebraska’s Offutt Air Force Base, where an overflowing Missouri River flooded over a half-mile of runway and many operational buildings on base. Estimates say repairs could cost up to $1 billion and take five years.

“We are already seeing the effects of climate change… a certain amount of this change is already locked in. These things are already happening, and they’re going to get worse,” Burke said. “If we don’t succeed in limiting our greenhouse gas emission, they will get much worse.”

President Biden’s executive order also creates a new appointee, Special Presidential Envoy for Climate, as well as requests the Secretary of Defense prepare an analysis of security implications of climate change.

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