John Conger, director of the Center for Climate and Security and former principal deputy under secretary at the Defense Department, discusses how climate change is affecting military bases and construction of new facilities.
The Department of Defense is working on a list of military installations vulnerable to the threat of climate change. According to the National Climate Assessment, the Norfolk Naval Station is in danger. John Conger, director of the Center for Climate and Security and former principal deputy under secretary at the Defense Department, says that the Virginia base is already running into environmental issues. “Norfolk is at the front lines of climate change. They are dealing with sea level rise on a regular basis, and the Norfolk/Hampton Roads area is also sinking. They are dealing with climate change and sea level rise at almost twice the rate of other places. That means regular flooding and there’s an impact to the infrastructure on the base,” Conger said. “If you are dealing with sea level rising, you are dealing with flooding. There are some bases around the country that are dealing with drought, they’re dealing with extreme heat, they’re dealing with wildfires. There are examples in Alaska where bases are dealing with permafrost thaw, that impacts foundations and makes buildings no longer safe for people to work in.” Conger said that these issues were explored while he was at the Defense Department, and were taken very seriously. “The Navy was the most forward‑leaning because they have the most coastal bases and they are dealing with sea level rise in their construction projects. But they are also have the arctic… As the arctic ice melts, they have responsibilities in a new theater in the world. They were thinking about it more than everybody else,” Conger told Government Matters. “The fact of the matter was that when the military thinks about mission, they are going to want to do things to defend that mission and they’re not going to want to bury their heads in the sand about possible risks that they are going to have to deal with.”