Pentagon to include climate risk in war gaming, defense secretary says

FILE PHOTO: Retired General Lloyd Austin testifies before the Senate Armed Services Committee during his confirmation hearing to be the next Secretary of Defense in the Dirksen Senate Office Building in Washington, U.S. January 19, 2021. Jim Lo Scalzo/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The Pentagon said on Wednesday it would include the risk of climate change in military simulations and war gaming, after President Joe Biden signed a raft of executive actions to tackle the climate issue.

Biden’s orders map out the direction for the Democratic president’s environmental agenda and mark a reversal from policies under his Republican predecessor, Donald Trump, who sought to maximize U.S. oil, gas and coal output by removing regulations and easing environmental reviews.

Under Trump, the Pentagon’s guiding document, known as the National Defense Strategy, did not include climate change as a priority.

Over the past decade, the U.S. military and intelligence officials have developed a broad agreement about the security threats that climate change presents, in part by threatening to cause natural disasters in densely populated coastal areas, damage American military bases worldwide and open up new natural resources to global competition.

“The Department will immediately take appropriate policy actions to prioritize climate change considerations in our activities and risk assessments, to mitigate this driver of insecurity,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement.

“As a leader in the interagency, the Department of Defense will also support incorporating climate risk analysis into modeling, simulation, war gaming, analysis, and the next National Defense Strategy,” Austin said.

He added that in 2019, the military assessed climate-related impacts on 79 installations.

Biden’s focus on climate change has cheered international partners and environmental advocates, but upset Big Oil, which argues the moves will cost the United States millions of jobs and billions of dollars in revenue at a time when the U.S. economy has been battered by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“There is little about what the Department does to defend the American people that is not affected by climate change,” Austin said. It is a national security issue, and we must treat it as such.”

Reporting by Idrees Ali and Phil Stewart; Editing by Peter Cooney