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PACOM not waiting on politics to plan for climate change challenges

As Congress remains gridlocked on more than 200 bills related to climate change, U.S. Pacific Command is forging strategies with partner nations in the region to mitigate the security effects of global warming.

“You can’t deny the fact that there are military consequences going on as a result of storms,” said Brig. Gen. Mark McLeod, who headed PACOM’s Logistics, Engineering and Security Cooperation directorate for two years until transferring to the Pentagon this summer.

“Seventy percent of the bad storms that happen in the world are in the Pacific,” he said. “Call it climate change, call it the big blue rabbit, I don’t give a hoot what you call it — the military has to respond to those kinds of things.”

Indeed, despite claims by some that global warming is a myth, there’s growing accord among analysts and military thinkers around the world that the repercussions of climate change will require the same application of strategy the military would employ when grappling with any foe. To that end, PACOM initiated a series of forums held throughout the region designed to brainstorm military-civil solutions to climate-related security issues. Pacific Command is already collaborating with several small island nations to help them cope with problems from rising sea level, such as saltwater encroachment into ground water.

PACOM’s role in all this is to build resilience in such countries, McLeod said. “Maybe that means we don’t have to go out there and do as much, costing the U.S. government money. Maybe it also allows us to build relationships with those countries and then have access.”

To keep such efforts on track, PACOM last fall began incorporating an environmental strategy into all its planning, programs and exercises, he said.

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