Pentagon strategy document will not include climate change: official

The Pentagon is shown in Arlington, Virginia, U.S., September 11, 2017. REUTERS/Joshua Roberts

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Climate change will not be included in an important Pentagon strategy document set to be unveiled in January, the No. 2 official at the U.S. Defense Department said on Thursday.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan told reporters that not mentioning climate change did not mean it was no longer a priority for the U.S. military.

The Pentagon strategy document, known as the National Defense Strategy, sets the priorities and direction for the U.S. military.

The White House earlier this week released its overarching strategy document, which dropped former President Barack Obama’s 2016 description of climate change as a U.S. national security threat. President Donald Trump in June announced that he was withdrawing the United States from the Paris climate accord unless changes are made.

“We don’t specifically address climate change ... There is only so much, you know, depth and breadth ... it really reflects the high priorities of the department,” Shanahan said.

“It doesn’t mean that it is not a priority or that it is a priority. What it says is in the national defense strategy, we don’t address it,” he added.

Over the last 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.

In written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee after his confirmation hearing in January, Defense Secretary Jim Mattis wrote that “climate change can be a driver of instability,” and “a challenge that requires a broader, whole-of-government response.”

His answers reflected, in part, a broad consensus laid out in a September 2016 memo prepared by the National Intelligence Council, which advises U.S. intelligence agencies, and said that climate change presents risks to stability, human health and food supplies.

Reporting by Idrees Ali, editing by G Crosse