February 08, 2022

Sen. Warren, Rep. Lee, Colleagues Urge Defense Department to Address Climate Crisis Risks in Upcoming National Defense Strategy

Text of Letter (PDF)

Washington, D.C. — United States Senator Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC), and Congresswoman Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), a member of the House Committee on Appropriations, urged Department of Defense (DoD) Secretary Lloyd J. Austin, III to ensure that efforts to combat climate change are included in the DoD’s upcoming National Defense Strategy, and called for recommendations for the federal budget that reflect the urgency of the climate crisis. 

“We must work to prevent the most damaging effects of climate change by reducing emissions rather than reacting to conflicts and increased climate migration after climate change has exacerbated these problems,” wrote the lawmakers. “The National Defense Strategy must not accept climate change and rising temperatures as an inevitable or most-likely outcome and must emphasize the urgent need to rebalance spending to avoid the worst-case outcomes of the climate crisis.”

As an existential threat, climate change poses fundamental risks to national security and DoD’s operations worldwide. DoD has recognized the threat of climate change for over a decade. In 2010, DoD reported that climate change threatens the nation’s coastal infrastructure and military capabilities. The 2018 DoD directive, “Climate Adaptation and Resilience,” stated that DoD must assess and manage risks associated with the impacts of climate change. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee in 2019, eight different military leaders publicly confirmed to Senator Warren the threat that climate change already poses to U.S. national security and strategic interests around the world, and reaffirmed the need to address it. DoD has already seen the effects of a rapidly evolving climate, including increased frequency of dangerous storms. In 2019, DoD requested nearly $9 billion in supplemental funding to fix damage to multiple bases following several hurricanes and subsequent flooding.

The lawmakers continued in their letter: “By treating the climate crisis as the existential and national security threat that it is through the National Defense Strategy, DoD can maintain national security and military readiness, avoid billions of dollars in damages and save millions of lives.”

Senator Warren is a leading voice in addressing DoD’s role in climate change. In 2019, she and Congresswoman Escobar introduced the Department of Defense Climate Resiliency and Readiness Act, legislation that would address DoD’s role as the world’s largest emitter of carbon dioxide and ensure DoD’s resilience against climate change. In December 2021, Senator Warren and Congresswoman Escobar called on DoD to take proactive steps outlined in their comprehensive legislation to combat the climate crisis.